Thursday, April 3, 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Electric Ladyland"

Electric Ladyland (released in October 1968) is widely considered The Jimi Hendrix Experience's crowning achievement and focuses attention on Hendrix's abilities as singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. This stunning collection provides the earliest insight into Hendrix's "Sky Church" concept with featured guest appearances by Steve Winwood, Jack Casady, Al Kooper, Chris Wood, and Buddy Miles.

The first time I picked up this album, I knew it was something very special. It really conveys all the different nuances of the Hendrix style. Firstly, the soulful "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)", is a great example of Jimi at his thoughful best with his guitar sounding very mellow. However, this soon is overtaken by the still soulful but rougher-edged sounds of "Crosstown Traffic". This song is about a girl who is hard to get rid of. Getting through to her that she's not wanted is like getting through crosstown traffic. Again, the guitar riffs here are smooth and soulful, displaying Hendrix's unique ability to be tender with a rough-edge at the same time.

"Voodoo Chile" (and the reprise "Voodoo Child - Slight Return") is an epic, what can I say? It is 15 minutes of blues-drenched Jimi at his best. While the track sounds like a live recording, the crowd noise was actually recorded afterwards. Some twenty people were brought to the studio to record appropriate background noise. Nevertheless, the audience sounds are very well integrated into the track. "Little Miss Strange" and "Long Hot Summer Night" are interesting tracks, the first sounding like a typical 1960s pop song, and the second sounding again, a bit rougher-edged.

Then come my favourite tracks on the album, the old Earl King track "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)" where Jimi shows off his best guitar work. This is bluesy and quite over the top as Jimi just attacks his guitar in a real rock n'roll style. Another favourite is "Gypsy Eyes" which has a sizzling, aggressive guitar sound. Fantastic! "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp" follows which has a much more mellow sound. The song's lyrics are about the loss of relationship. Scenes of loneliness are described with attention to detail, including seeing an earring left behind and how it reminds him of his current loneliness. Whether due to the personal lyrics or unique instrumentation and sound, Hendrix was particularly proud of this song. His attachment is evidenced by the decision to include it on Electric Ladyland over a year after first releasing it.

"Rainy Day, Dream Away" and the later reprise "Still Raining, Still Dreaming" are laid-back jazz-blues tracks which show the versatility of Jimi's guitar playing. "1983 . . . (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" is a fantastic dreamy journey into another world. It is self-indulgent and is designed to take you away and it does so, with great effect. The song details a science fiction scenario of an apocalyptic war and the protagonist/Hendrix' desire to "take our last walk through the noise to the sea" with his female companion.

"House Burning Down" is a classic sizzling Hendrix track which really typifies the overtly aggressive Hendrix style. Finally, "All Along the Watchtower", written by Bob Dylan, highlights another aspect of Hendrix's work, where he really 'talks' emotion through his guitar. Hendrix’s obsessive re-working of the song totally transformed it from a quiet acoustic ballad to a pyrotechnic display of Hendrix’s guitar virtuosity. Dylan has described his reaction to hearing Hendrix's version: "It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day" (Interview with Bob Dylan: 09/29/95, Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel). A great tribute indeed.

Details of credits for the album are as follows:

Jimi Hendrix – electric guitar, bass guitar (on tracks 2, 6, 8, 11, 14 and 15), electric harpsichord (on track 9), percussion, lead vocals (on all non-instrumental tracks except 5 in which Mitch and Noel sing), background vocals, kazoo made of comb and paper (track 3), a slide used in "All Along the Watchtower" is actually a cigarette lighter

Mitch Mitchell – drums (on all tracks except 10 and 13), percussion, background vocals, lead vocals (with Redding on track 5)

Noel Redding – bass guitar (on tracks 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 16), background vocals, acoustic guitar (on track 5), lead vocals (with Mitchell on track 5)

Extras included:

Jack Casady – bass (on track 4)
Larry Faucette – congas (on tracks 10 and 13)
Mike Finnigan – organ (on tracks 10 and 13)
Al Kooper – piano (on track 6)
Dave Mason – guitar (on track 15), backing vocals (on track 3)
Buddy Miles – drums (on tracks 10 and 13)
Freddie Smith – tenor saxophone (on tracks 10 and 13)
Steve Winwood – organ (on track 4)
Chris Wood – flute (on track 11)
Cissy Houston and The Sweet Inspirations – background vocals (on track 9)
Brian Jones - percussion {on track 13}


Producers - Jimi Hendrix & Chas Chandler
Engineers - Eddie Kramer & Gary Kellgren
Mixed by - Jimi Hendrix & Eddie Kramer
Arranged by Jimi Hendrix
Liner Note by Jimi Hendrix
US cover design - Karl Ferris
US cover inside photos - Linda Eastman (McCartney) & David Sygall
US art direction - Ed Thrasher
UK cover design - David King, Rob O'Connor
UK cover inside photos - Richard Montgomery
1st remaster by Allan Douglas
Remastering - Joe Gastwirt
Liner notes - Michael Fairchild
2nd remaster by Experience Hendrix
Remastering supervisors - Janie Hendrix, John McDermott
Remastering - Eddie Kramer & George Marino
Art direction - Vartan
Liner notes - Jeff Leve
Essay - Derek Taylor


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