The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by David Chiu
Promo image: Marjut Valakivi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
1968’s Electric Ladyland, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s third studio album, has the distinction of being the guitarist’s final work released in his lifetime–and the only record that he produced by himself. Fifty years later, this classic double album remains timeless with its stylistic and musical breadth and of course, Hendrix’s innovative guitar playing and spiritual lyrics. It yielded several of Hendrix’s best-known and beloved songs in “Crosstown Traffic”; “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”; his memorable cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (which awed the songwriter himself); and the slow-burning and masterful “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Aside form the epic in-studio blues jam “Voodoo Chile,” other highlights from the record show Hendrix branching out from his earlier work with the Experience, from the funk rock, almost disco-laden “Gypsy Eyes”; to the cosmic and spacy “And the Gods Made Love,” “Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away,” and “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”; and the jazzy-blues amalgam of “Rainy Day, Dream Away.” Sadly, we will never know what Hendrix had truly intended for that fourth album. But based on what came out on Electric Ladyland, it would have been massive; Ladyland is remarkable proof that the guitarist was still pushing musical boundaries with his penchant for perfectionism.
To mark Electric Ladyland‘s 50th anniversary is this 3-CD/1 Blu Ray set that in addition to featuring the original album, contains a disc of early takes and demos of the songs. Several of those were recorded at the Drake Hotel hotel in March 1968 with only Hendrix’s voice and guitar recorded on a tape machine; the early versions of “Voodoo Chile,” “Gypsy Eyes” (you could hear the telephone ringing in the background as Hendrix is playing away), and “Long Hot Summer Night” – providing into how those songs came to and eventually evolved. The third disc contains a previously unreleased concert recording by the Experience at the Hollywood Bowl in September 1968 shortly before the release of Electric Ladyland; in addition to previewing a few songs from the new album, the band runs through old favorites from the previous albums as “Hey Joe” and “Foxey Lady” as well as a cover of the then-recently disbanded Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”; it’s at times rough-sounding, but that’s what adds to its allure and value on a historical perspective. The Blu-ray features the original album in surround 5.1 as well as a documentary on the making of the album.