Tuesday, 5 March 2019

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland (1968)


Released October 1968

This was the third and final Jimi Hendrix Experience album of psychedelic rock/funk. It was a double album and Hendrix takes the sound to its absolute limit, one feels. It was genuinely ground-breaking, musically, despite often being thought of as merely a drugged-up masterpiece. This was 1968, nobody had done anything like this before, they really hadn’t. It took the mid-sixties blues rock sound, mixed it with some serious psychedlia and searing lead guitar and set it all loose, man. The sessions for the album saw a jam-packed studio that made it seem like one huge party, according to bassist Noel Redding.


1. ...And The Gods Made Love
2. Have You Ever Been To (Electric Ladyland)
3. Crosstown Traffic
4. Voodoo Child
5. Little Miss Strange
6. Long Hot Summer Night
7. Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)
8. Gypsy Eyes
9. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
10. Rainy Day, Dream Away
11. 1983...A Merman I Should Turn To Be
12. Moon, Turn The Tides...Gently, Gently
13. Still Raining, Still Dreaming
14. House Burning Down
15. All Along The Watchtower
16. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)                    

“…And The Gods Made Love” is an ambient intro of sound effects that lead into the dreamy rock of “Have You Ever Been To (Electric Ladyland)”. This is a strangely laid-back track, almost soulful in its vocal delivery. “Crosstown Traffic” has that catchy “doo-de-doo-de-doo-doo” high pitched kazoo noise that Hendrix played over its delicious bluesy/acid rock rhythm. “Voodoo Child” is fifteen minutes of stonewall blues rock brilliance. Classic sixties party material. As well as Hendrix’s guitar virtuosity there is some superb Hammond organ from guest organist Steve Winwood. The track has a loose, ad hoc “live” feel to it. Although there is intermittent applause, it comes from those present in the studio for what was basically and extended jam.

“Little Miss Strange” is the complete antidote to “Voodoo Child”, being a catchy, sixties poppy number, albeit with some buzzy Hendrix guitar all over it. “Long Hot Summer Night” is an appetising slice of blues rock, again augmented by some searing guitar and that typical Hendrix sound to its funky bluesiness. Hendrix could adapt all sorts of musical styles to fit in with his own thing and he did just that on the r’n’b of “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)”. I love this one. There is a flexible, loose rockiness to it, great drumming and rhythm and Hendrix’s vocal is engagingly soulful.

“Gypsy Eyes” is also incredibly infectious, with a seductive rhythm, intoxicating bass line and sublime drums. Apparently Hendrix insisted on 50 takes of it. His perfectionism has always surprised me. I though that he just picked up his guitar and laid it down, brother. His recordings always sound spur of the moment, anything but painstakingly created. “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” is a track that just sums up sixties psychedelia and influenced so much subsequent material, particularly that wah-wah sound and the Eastern guitar lines.

“Rainy Day, Dream Away” experimented with a jazzy beat behind some semi-spoken pretty meaningless lines from Hendrix. The beat just continued long after the vocals had gone. It is very “jam” in its approach.  Finally, near the end, Hendrix sings in a melodic fashion. It fades out as he is singing. Next up is the astonishing “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” with is a vertitable cornucopia of psychedlic paraphernalia. There are all sorts of sounds in it, the flute of Traffic’s Chris Wood, and a “Whole Lotta Love” ambient middle part with quiet bass rumblings and delectable guitar interjections from Hendrix. Once again, no-one had done anything like this. Oh, and there is a drum solo too.

“Moon, Turn The Tides…Gently, Gently” is a minute of ambient interlude until Hendrix’s shredding wah-wah smashes back in on the industrial, solid rock of “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”. “House Burning Down” has one of those classic Hendrix rock riffs. I can’t get enough of it. Despite the longer workouts, sometimes Jimi could lay down a short, sharp, concise rock number really well. This was one of those. The stereo sound on it is a bit dodgy, however, fading in and out very clumsily. The sound is improved on Hendrix's iconic, some would say definitive cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower". Surely everyone knows this one by now and it doesn't need me to say how great it is. Needless to say the guitar on it is spellbinding. "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" starts with some trademark wah-wah guitar and, for many, is an archetypal Hendrix track. There is terrible sound in places, though, the guitar wavering willy-nilly from right to left. This was deliberate from Hendrix at the time, I believe.

Of course, many over the years have pointed out that the sound at times is pretty ropey, wandering from speaker to speaker and making you think there is something wrong with your system. I guess you just have to put up with it. The sound is powerful enough if you overlook that particular annoyance. Overall, this is one copper-bottomed classic album despite its flaws. Love the original cover too!


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