The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968): Review

Produced by Jimi Hendrix
Label – Reprise, Track, Barclay, Polydor

“Electric Ladyland” is an incredible recording on many levels. By 1968 the world of Jimi Hendrix was beginning to implode, contributed by a liberal increase in drug use by the maestro and his ever increasing entourage, an increasingly more erratic approach to writing, rehearsal and recording, and an ego-centric pursuit to perfectionism in his music, which alienated his music guru Chas Chandler and fellow band members alike.

Re-locating from London to New York following a dreadful Scandinavian tour, Hendrix, constantly frustrated by the limitations of recording establishments in the U.K., put full emphasis on developing his own state of the art studio in New York (Electric Lady) with the intention of realizing his ever expanding musical vision. The studio was far from its completion during the creation of “Electric Ladyland”, and so the bulk of the album would be recorded at the nearby Record Plant studio. It was at this time that Chas Chandler severed his ties with Hendrix, having become increasingly frustrated with the plethora of “hangers on” drifting in and out of the studio, and the constant multiple takes and re-recordings the pedantic guitarist insisted on. For example, “Gypsy Eyes” is alleged to have been recorded 43 times before Hendrix was satisfied with the result, much to the ire of Bass player Noel Redding who, in fits of temper would have to leave the studio for large periods of time. With Chandler gone, Hendrix guided himself away from the structured “radio friendly” 3 minute songs of his previous recordings and undertook his own interpretations, including longer jams, detailed solo’s and room to develop a dense but powerful mood in the music.

The results of this new “freedom” are quite astonishing on every level. Hendrix could still produce the perfect commercial single in the rip snorting “Crosstown Traffic”, and yet over the space of this double album he could develop a cosmic jam of epic proportions with the sprawling 15 minute “Voodoo Chile”. This mix of punchy, tight songs mixed with looser and longer experiments is what makes “Electric Ladyland” such an immense joy to the listener because Hendrix just manages to keep a lid on any suggestion that his undeniable genius is slipping into drug infused musical self satisfaction. His take of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” is not only more memorable than the original, but remains to this day, the definitive version. A congratulatory Dylan would admit “It’s not a wonder to me that Jimi recorded my songs, but rather that he recorded so few of them, because they were all his”. Add to this the outstanding “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, the Southern rocker “Come On”, and the terrifically detailed production on “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”. The band performances are all outstanding (Hendrix would play bass on many of the songs whilst Redding was out getting beer), and the contribution from various guests only adds to the overall quality of each recording. The guests would include Dave Mason, Chris Wood, and Steve Winwood from Traffic, drummer Buddy Miles and former Dylan organist Al Kooper.

“Electric Ladyland” brims with fantastic musical illusions and aural extravagances. Like a magic box full of tricks so sublime they never cease to captivate.

10/10

Track Listing
A1 And the Gods Made Love 1:22
A2 Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) 2:09
A3 Crosstown Traffic 2:26
A4 Voodoo Chile 14:58
B1 Little Miss Strange 2:52
B2 Long Hot Summer Night 3:27
B3 Come On 4:10
B4 Gypsy Eyes 3:45
B5 Burning of the Midnight Lamp 3:40
C1 Rainy Day, Dream Away 3:40
C2 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be) 13:09
C3 Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away 1:01
D1 Still Raining, Still Dreaming 4:26
D2 House Burning Down 4:32
D3 All Along the Watchtower 4:01
D4 Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) 5:11

All Along The Watchtower

Burning The Midnight Lamp

Crosstown Traffic

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