HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO ELECTRIC LADYLAND?

The third and final Jimi Hendrix Experience album, the double Electric Ladyland, was released in October 1968.

For me it is the greatest of his studio career. It would also be the last studio release in his lifetime, and see the breakup of the Experience. More: the album marked the departure of bassist Noel Redding and producer/personal manager/friend, ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who had originally brought Jimi to England and steered his early career in the UK and Europe.

By 1968 Jimi was a world-wide rock star and had well and truly cracked the US market. He was able to command enormous fees for concerts; the days of Chas’s austere recording sessions in London were long gone. Now Jimi was ensconced in New York, a city which, as we all know, never sleeps. It was from endless late night and early morning sessions at The Record Plant in NYC that the source material for Electric Ladyland was committed to countless reels of tape.

But the long, drawn out nature of these sessions, with more often than not a host of hangers-on, was too much for Chas and Noel. So Jimi ended up producing the music himself, assisted by supportive engineer Eddie Kramer. Together they were able to explore, experiment and broaden the palate of what was possible in rock. This is an important part of the enduring success of the album.

While living in New York, Jimi was almost continuously jamming in clubs with an endless stream of musos who were  passing through town. As a result, we see among the guests on the album members of Traffic, Jack Casady (bassist with the Jefferson Airplane), organist Mike Finnigan (who is currently working with Bonnie Raitt) and drummer Buddy Miles, who would eventually be a member of Jimi’s short-lived Band Of Gypsys.

The peak of Jimi’s studio jamming is the magnificent fifteen minutes of “Voodoo Chile”, with Casady on bass and Steve Winwood (who Jimi greatly admired) on organ. Noticeably, Hendrix uses no effects, as if wanting to avoid overwhelming the rest of the band, but has a wonderfully clear bell-like tone and just deploys single string runs throughout. Another successful jam—“Rainy Day, Dream Away / Still Raining Still Dreaming”—is a jazzy shuffle with Mike Finnigan and Buddy Miles.

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” seems essentially live, and is a real tour-de-force as Jimi changes gears on each instrumental break, getting further and further out there. As they used to say, turn it up loud!

Also on the album were attempts at a hit single, “Crosstown Traffic” (not successful) and Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” (ultimately successful and the best known song from the album). “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” was a reasonably successful single the previous year in the UK.

As with all of the Experience albums, there are some below par tracks but let’s not dally with them. Instead, it’s worth highlighting the experimentation that Jimi now had the studio time and freedom to explore.

The album begins with a short soundscape, “…And The Gods Made Love” which leads into the title track, a beautifully lyrical song that is, in its own way, experimental. But for this long-time fan, the LP reaches a peak on side three with “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To be)” where Jimi and girlfriend escape what appears to be World War III and decide to live in the sea (hence the title). It contains a beautiful, poignant riff and plenty of different experimental instrumental sections stretched over thirteen minutes. It really is a crowning achievement.

Things would never be the same for Jimi because, with the Experience dissolved, he was forced to find a new direction. One could argue it is something he never comfortably found. And perhaps that is why Electric Ladyland is such and important album, not just for its musical achievements but as a significant marker in Jimi’s short-lived career.

Hendrix fanatics (like your correspondent) will have noted that a three-disc Blu-ray set has been released to mark the 50th anniversary of Electric Ladyland. Although I haven’t acquired it, I’m sure this fan will be sending yet more money in the direction of Experience Hendrix Corporate-land. Wonder what Jimi would make of that.

 

This article (as with the previous Jimi Hendrix Experience posts, here and here) was penned by Vinyl Connection’s highly-valued Hendrix expert, Steven Newstead.

42 comments

  1. Hmmm. I suppose I “should” have a favorite of his albums but I’m not sure I do. Like ’em all. I’m kinda partial to “Axis.” Nevertheless, thanks for the reminder. I have to go out tonight to a Christmas party that for a variety of reasons I’d rather not go to. I’ll give this a spin on Spotify as I haven’t listened to it for a while. As to Winwood, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think highly of him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Jim S, you are quite right, all 3 albums are hugely important, but I still EL as the most evolved and ambitious of his albums… Steven.

      Like

      1. Can’t argue with that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My favourite Hendrix album, and well done for not mentioning the UK artwork (which Jimi hated)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Quite right,. Have you seen the photo of Jimi BITING the UK cover?

      Like

  3. RE-posted on twitter @trefology

    Liked by 1 person

  4. They say Hendrix was effusively polite. Always asking first if you are experienced, or if you have traveled to Electric Ladyland; whilst also remembering to excuse himself before kissing the sky. I think it is for these reasons he is still fondly remembered by people who take such things into consideration.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. A moving insight, Tref. His example is one we could all benefit from following. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Very funny tref, a very sensitive piece of literary analysis… Steven.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Crosstown Traffic sounds like it could have been a hit single – it’s concise, and funky, and memorable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Could have been but wasn’t!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Had to choke my impulse to buy the album soon I could finish reading. (A lost favourite).
    ‘scuse me – I’m off to buy.
    Thanks Steven and Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. … that’s so not soon
    Sometimes I love ‘autocorrecto’ sometimes use it mischievously. Not today !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Good stuff! I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A good old fashioned double album from the heyday. So much to like. One of the best uses of a rock song in a movie? ‘Voodoo Child’ in ‘Withnail and I’ (George Harrison connection)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Don’t remember that, haven’t seen it in many decades!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s because I got the last copy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh the movie. Yeah at the end when Withnail is trying to make time. He’s blasting down the road in his beat up Jag pissed out of his head with Hendrix blaring.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. As I recall, Withnail and I makes good use of All Along The Watchtower too!

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Hated that film when I first saw it in the cinema. Yet purchased a DVD at some point. Must give it another try, I think.

          Like

        3. Absolutely right JDB!

          Like

  9. This was really instructive to read. I never knew Mike Finnegan played on that album and was such an integral player with Hendrix. I was lucky enough to see him supporting Stephen Stills many years ago at a small club in DC. That knowledge would have been nice to have back then. But I have it now, so at least I’m educated! Great explanation of a classic album, thanks. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Thanks Marty. Check out the “Classic Albums” DVD of Electric Lady land, Finnigan is very amusing about his involvement.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The cover with the 19 naked barroom girls was really something else, even if the trip into the land of electric ladies with the so-called director’s cut occasionally leads to excess length.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Steven Newstead · · Reply

    Not quite sure what you mean. Apparently the girls were just approached on the streets and offered a few quid for a photo session. I can’t help but think that it was a terrible marketing decision. I can’t believe that there weren’t problems putting that cover into UK record shops in the UK even in 1968!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well said about the guitar work on Voodoo Chile & its slight return.
    My only complaint with my copy was that side A & D were on the same LP, so it wasn’t an ideal break length between the two (as I would have preferred B & C in between to build up to the slight return)
    But if that’s the best I can do as a complaint, it’s a keeper by any internationally recognized measurement system!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Very good! Of course the US doubles were presented that way so you could stack the 2 discs on an automatic changer so side a would drop followed by disc 2 then you flipped them over for sides 3 & 4! The rational listener (who was very unlikely to have an automatic stacker) would put on disc 1 side A then onto disc 2 for Sides B & C and back to disc 1 for side 4. I’ve done that for many many times with Electric Lady land!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I love this one unreservedly, every second of it. Im particularly fond of the little bits of studio chatter here and there.

    I’ve got the cover with the unflatteringly lit ladies on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Good on you… Steven

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Never mind the subject matter, it’s just a pants photo!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Or, in fact, no pants.

          Like

    2. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      Re studio chatter, I recently found out that the small group applause and chatter at the end of Voodoo Child (which finishes with a female voice asking “are the bars closed?”) is ‘fake’ I.E. was edited onto the ending. I was Initially disappointed because it seemed like the appropriate ending to a stellar jam, but I guess that’s exactly why they did it!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Hey, now. I’m glad you guys started this thread. I listened to the album and realized I haven’t heard the whole thing in ages. Turns out there’s more to it than ‘Crosstown Traffic’ and ‘Watchtower.’ (Pretty much all the radio ever plays.) Just sounded great. I hear Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) all the time but hadn’t heard Voodoo Child in a while. Fantastic. The only song that kinda sucks is the Noel Redding tune. Sounds like hanging out with the Monkees rubbed off on him. And I am now learning ‘Come On’ on the guitar ‘coz it’s so fine and funky. I listened to ‘Gypsys’ today and between now and sometime next year will try to get through the 437 albums that have been released since he died. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven Newstead · · Reply

      437!!!that’s staggering research (Dr Google?) I hadn’t thought of the Monkees connection – cruel but with a grain of truth. Check out the Earl King original of “Come On” Jimi copies it note for note, only he plays it better!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Will do. Might actually be 438😁. Actually how many are there, like, 40?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Steven Newstead · ·

          I took my own advice and asked Dr Google. Wikipedia reckon there have been 64 studio, live and compilations and 23 ‘official’ (ie Experience Hendrix /Dagger Records) bootlegs.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Ok, Mr. Hendrix=expert. Riddle me this – you don’t have to name them (as I want to do my own research) but how many of those would you say are quality? I don’t mean ‘well it’s Hendrix so it’s worth it.’ I mean stands-the-test-of-time quality.

          Like

        3. Steven Newstead · ·

          I am not sure that I like your tone young man! I really like 2 original vinyl albums and 1 Experience Hendrix expanded re-release and 2 of their box sets. Enjoy your research and feel free to let me know what you come up with.

          Like

        4. Will do. It will probably take me a little bit but I will enjoy the ride. Thanks.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. Although it was never a hit single, Crosstown Traffic always makes it on to ‘Best Of’ compilations. It’s one of my favorites, though my all-time favorite remains All Along The Watchtower (about which I did my own post some time back), and if that’s a cliche, so be it! This is hardly an original thought, but can you *imagine* what he’d have given us had he not died at 27? The mind boggles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, had also wanted to mention that Electric Lady Studios is still going strong: http://electricladystudios.com/

      Liked by 1 person

  16. My favourite Jimi album. Well, depending on the day – sometimes I opt for Axis… most of the time this one. There isn’t a wasted minute or note on here.

    Liked by 1 person

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