Jimi Hendrix & co. had a jam-packed year previous to this record, releasing their debut and follow-up in the space of six months as a result of pressure from label Track Records. The rush was apparent on the group’s second album ‘Axis: Bold as Love’. Although having a forty-minute runtime, there was clear filler with cuts that had much less impact and character than the debut.
With the Experience’s third studio effort dropping in late 68′, it was clear to see that the label & studio switch and ease of pressure impacted the material. In fact, the difference in quality between ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ & ‘Electric Ladyland’ is night and day.
Expanding studio space allowed the group to build upon their sound and experiment with new techniques. Most notably, Hendrix’s first use of harpsichord and his infamous ‘wah-wah’ effect on ‘Burning of the Midnight Lamp’.
‘Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)’ opens the record with a loose & melancholic blues feel, with soulful Hendrix falsetto. ‘Crosstown Traffic’, similar in tone to Axis’ ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ packs a fearsome punch with its searing guitar leads and erratic rock drums.
Fifteen-minute blues behemoth ‘Voodoo Chile’ is later reprised with ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return), the snappier, straight-t0-the-point edit featuring Hendrix’s illustrious intro riff. ‘Gypsy Eyes’ rumbles along with its noodly guitars and Mitch Mitchell’s chugging drum beats.
The blues-psych flavour is intensified with ‘Rainy Day, Dream Away’, leading into the incredible ‘1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)’. Slide guitar and subtle arpeggios drive the track with a spacey, psych aesthetic. ‘1983’ is a song that was truly light years ahead of its time.
Moreover, Hendrix’s fame and legacy would not be on the same level today if it wasn’t for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s emphatic cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’, giving it that rocky, upbeat identity.
Electric Ladyland is a remarkable achievement that went on to inspire countless acts within multiple sub-genres of rock music. Its blues, psychedelic & hard rock touches and flourishes give the record its timeless character, with Hendrix being one hell of a frontman and vehicle to drive the material home.
Essential tracks: Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) // 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be) // All Along the Watchtower // Voodoo Child (Slight Return)