49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
, October 30, 2003
This review is from: Electric Ladyland (Audio CD)
When Jimi Hendrix's album Electric Ladyland was released in 1968, it blew all of the competition out of the water (including Jimi's previous two albums). First off, the scope of this album is stunning; so far reaching, in fact, that it was released as a double LP set, something that was fairly new at the time. However, even in 2003, listening to this album is still amazing as the listener often wonders "How did he get that sound?" or "How does he come up with this stuff?" I, for one, am absolutely in love with this album, and I think that this is his best effort (beating out "Are You Experiecnced" by just a fraction).
I have been listening to this album for about a year now, and I still haven't found all the little subtleties and nuances, so I won't dive into those too deeply, but they're there, believe me. The opening cut, "And the Gods Made Love" shows that Jimi was a master studio technician as well, mixing odd sounds and backwards tapes to give us something that sounds like wind blowing at first listen, but subsequent listens reveal odd sounds that weren't quite noticeable before, and there is even a tape of Jimi's voice that is slowed down and played backwards (rumor has it that he is saying "Ok, one more time" or something to that effect). Next we move into the second intro track, "(Have You Ever Been) to Electric Ladyland", in which Jimi soothes us with his voice, preparing us for the mind-blowing journey that lays ahead, which all comes crashing down on us with the blues-pop jam "Crosstown Traffic."
From here on, this album takes many twists and turns. The 17-minute blues jam "Voodoo Chile" sits next to a nice Noel Redding piece, the psychedelic pop "Little Miss Strange," on which Noel even gets the lead vocal. "Gypsy Eyes" and "House Burning Down" show a more fiery Jimi, while the cool-jazz/blues hybrid "Rainy Day, Dream Away" shows Jimi once again stretching his famous blues chops.
Amidst all of these diverse types of songs, there are a few which really stand out as not only masterpieces in Jimi Hendrix's repetoire, but also posess a beautiful, ethereal quality which cannot be expressed in mere words. The most obvious example of this is "1983...A Merman I should Turn Out to Be" which opens with a guitar intro that is blissfully beautiful in quality. If Jimi had always been a bit "spacey" musically, he really outdid himself here. After its initial reading of the introductory verses, the song gives way to an open, expansive, 13-minute psychedelic jam which features little of Jimi's guitar histrionics, but makes up for that in terms of feel and overall quality. This is Hendrix at his best and a definite highlight of this album. Another highlight would have to be, of course, Jimi's famous reading of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," which was the biggest hit from this album, and it's easy to see why since this is one of Jimi's best moments. When that guitar intro starts up, I always see a montage of Vietnam War footage in my head, as well as images of the counterculture that was going on on the homefront. Never before has a song so captured the element of its time and yet remained a timeless listen at the same time. Absolutely breathtaking. The final track, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is one of Jimi's best rockers and one of the best songs in his entire canon. Every time I hear this, I see images of Jimi performing this at his legendary Woodstock concert (if you haven't seen it, then you're missing out). "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" is another one of Hendrix's best songs; I can't tell if that's Jimi's guitar or a harpsichord from hell being used in that memorable intro. In fact, it's vaguely reminiscent of the intro to "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds," which was issued the previous year.
If you are a fan of classic rock, hard rock, art-rock, or great music in general and you don't already own this, then I pose the question "Why not?" This record has everything, great songs, great guitar work, great production effects and above all, a fantastic musical vision. So don't hesitate to pick this masterpiece of an album, an album which is a true testament to Jimi Hendrix as a musician, and as a creative force in the studio as well. This is one of my all time favorites now, and I'm willing to bet that it will be one of yours too if you give it some time and a few good listens.
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