JIMI HENDRIX — Electric Ladyland (review)

JIMI HENDRIX — Electric Ladyland album cover Album · 1968 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE may have had a short shelf life having only existed for four years and crafting three albums but they really knew how to make things count and take things to the next level on each subsequent release. The final chapter of the power trio that consisted of JIMI HENDRIX on vocals and guitar (and various other instruments such as comb and tissue paper kazoo!), Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums resulted in one of the most complex and enduring albums that the late 60s had to offer. In addition to the trio’s dominate instrumental prowess on the third and final album ELECTRIC LADYLAND, there was a whole army of guest musicians and production personnel involved making this one of the most expensive albums to have come out in 1968 and with eleven musicians and vocalists adding touches of flute, saxophone, Hammond organ, piano, 12-string guitar, congas and backing vocals, it’s also one of the most diverse and magnanimous sounding albums of the band’s three album career.

Keeping things in the same cosmic flow as their previous two albums, the EXPERIENCE continued in the lines of the psychedelically fueled blues rock that alternated between hard rock, blues and funk that added jazz touches. The indefatigable JIMI HENDRIX himself spent countless hours recording and re-recording tracks and then polishing them into pure perfection to the point where his perfectionist tendencies which coupled with the open invitation for friends to join in on the studio time led to a break in the professional relationship between HENDRIX and the man responsible for his initial success, Chas Chandler. The track “Gypsy Eyes” alone took 50 takes in 3 sessions to record. Despite the magnanimous nature of what went into the recording and production values, ELECTRIC LADYLAND sounds as if it was created in an impromptu performance as it flows fairly naturally from beginning to end, production techniques excluded of course.

So fertile was HENDRIX’s output that there was enough material to create a double album and at a playing time of over 75 minutes, was quite the commitment for the fans to wrap their heads around but nonetheless ELECTRIC LADYLAND instantly shot to the top of the charts and generated the band’s only top 40 hit in the US with the Bob Dylan cover of “All Along The Watchtower,” a track that Dylan himself has admitted to being a vast improvement over his original. While the public enthusiastically supported the new album, the critics who had trouble finding a way to relate to the album weren’t so kind but was the decades have elapsed and new generations have discovered the ambitious nature of this album, it has since been deemed one of the greatest rock albums of all time as it effortlessly coalesced the disparate elements of funk, blues, hard rock, jazz and psychedelia under one anthemic banner.

ELECTRIC LADYLAND crafted a much denser and sophisticated compositional approach than either “Are You Experienced?” or “Axis: Bold As Love.” While clearly still rooted in the bluesy heavy rock riffing and guitar soloing showmanship style that had propelled HENDRIX into the limelight, the album shows a rock band evolving past the limitations of what a rock band was considered to be and much like The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” which changed the musical landscape the year prior was in the forefront of experimental techniques that included extensive use of backmasking, chorus effects, echoing and flange. Likewise the 15 minute long “Voodoo Chile” presaged the entire progressive rock revolution that would become official once King Crimson launched their ground zero detonating “In The Court Of The Crimson King” the following year. In short, ELECTRIC LADYLAND had the simplicity and hooks to draw in the crowds and the subtle complexities to keep them coming back for more.

Eclectic and diverse, ELECTRIC LADYLAND showcased HENDRIX’s own sundry stylistic approaches. While some tracks like “Voodoo Chile” exorcised his deepest inner blues, others like “Come On” focused on R&B whereas “Crosstown Traffic” was more in the acid hard rock camp. “Little Miss Strange” was one of the few tracks to feature Mitch Mitchell on lead vocals and is a strange little 60s beat pop song tucked into the layers of psychedelically tinged externalities that provide the unifying factor. HENDRIX seemed to realize that this would be his magnum opus as his attention to this exhaustive labor of love only became apparent to the world that his works were indeed the makings of a mad genius who ceaselessly toiled over his worktable to create the next addition to his musical canvas. With a message presented in the album’s final track “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” that said “If I don't meet you no more in this world, then I'll meet you in the next one, and don't be late, don't be late” makes you wonder if HENDRIX didn’t know on a higher level that his days on Earth were limited.

Having not been around for the original release of this magnificent album has been one of my biggest hurdles in appreciating its brilliance as i’ve had to work my way back through the timeline to wrap my head around the mindset that launched the whole 60s psychedelic rock scene in the first place. While any progressive rock or metalhead who delves deep enough in the way back machine will ultimately end up here, it does not mean for a second that the album will be regarded in such high esteem. The album has to be not just heard but EXPERIENCED on a higher plane to truly understand. It’s almost a transcendental meditative experience in its own right once the left-brained antics of comparison to those who were influenced by this era are allowed to dissipate. Overall the album comes off as a dream sequence at rock concert where the performers exist in multiple dimensions simultaneously and are able to connect on a cosmic level superseding the 3D limitations of the Earth plane. Something struck a chord with the fans. ELECTRIC LADYLAND remains the JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE’s most successful album of the mere three album career and one that may not transcend the time it was created but on the contrary takes the listener back to the best aspects of what made the era so great.
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