Electric Ladyland at 50

The third and final studio album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

Tuesday 16th October 2018

For an artist that still exerts a palpable legacy on almost every genre of popular music, it is easy to forget that Jimi Hendrix with the Jimi Hendrix Experience only made three studio albums, and released those within a two year period between 1967 and 1968, with the last now being half a century old.

Chronologically speaking, 'Electric Ladyland' is now twice as close to the end of World War II as it is to the present day, yet contemporary musicians seem to reference key elements of the famous Hendrix formula. Perhaps even more so than its famous contemporaries The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who.

Though many critics at the time considered the album to be too heavy, with the benefit of 50 years of hindsight, it's now a fairly well-accepted truth that the dense overdriven nature of the album was a touchstone moment in blues and rock 'n' roll's necessary progression, modernisation and diversification into something new.   

The most frequently cited and celebrated moment on 'Electric Ladyland' is of course not a Hendrix original, but his cover of Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower'. As if chosen to demonstrate Hendrix's intention to electrify the acoustic world Dylan later stated in a 1985 interview: "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."

Featuring Brian Jones of the Stones on percussion, and Dave Mason of Traffic on additional guitar and bass (Experience bassist Noel Redding having walked out of the session halfway through) the recording of 'All Along The Watchtower' is the stuff of rockumentaries, but it's not the only landmark development on 'Electric Ladyland'.

The album's first side alone lined up the title track 'Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)', along with 'Crosstown Traffic' and 'Voodoo Chile'. The three songs run the full Hendrix gamut between the former song's smooth psychedelic funk, filtered through its haze of liberally applied electronic effects through to the unrelenting urgency of 'Crosstown Traffic' and the 15-minute experimental blues odyssey of 'Voodoo Chile'.

Over its four sides of vinyl, the record continues to explore its own world. Another epic, the 13-minute '1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)' uses backwards tape effects and swirling flanges to illustrate its prophetic watery tale of a future world drowned by rising seas. The album concludes with the previously mentioned Watchtower and 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)'. The latter, despite being one of the most singular displays of Hendrix's ability to express himself with a guitar and wah wah pedal, was composed, performed and recorded for the benefit of a documentary crew's footage, after the initial recording was complete.

Though Electric Ladyland was the third and final LP from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the trio went on in various forms, with and without Noel Redding, until Hendrix's death in 1970 at 27 years old.

'Electric Ladyland' is regarded as the most accomplished example of Hendrix in the studio, taking control of the recording process and utilising technology to warp his delta blues, rock 'n' roll roots into his own new form which itself went on to become the beginning of a new movement.

As one might expect, 'Electric Ladyland' will be receiving the 50th-anniversary release treatment, with one of the album's original engineers Eddie Kramer overseeing a 5.1 Blu-ray mix of the album among other material, including outtakes and alternative versions.  

One of the most notable features of the 50th-anniversary edition of the album is the cover. Instead of the infamous group photo of 19 naked women that became the UK cover, which Hendrix himself found offensive or the live photo that was used on the US version (pictured above). Instead, the album will sport a photo of the band sitting on the Alice In Wonderland statue in New York, taken by Linda Eastman (later McCartney). The Eastman photo was the original preference of Hendrix for the cover but was rejected by the record label at the time in favour of the more sensationalist image that often led to the gatefold album being put on the shelves inside-out to avoid causing offence.

Find out more at www.jimihendrix.com/electric-ladyland-50

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