Thursday, May 26, 2016

When Music Mattered - Electric Ladyland (1968)

Jimi Hendrix accomplished more in three albums than most artists get done in an entire catalog spanning dozens of years. He completely altered the world of rock music, and changed the way that guitarists utilized their equipment. He was an innovator but, more than that, he was one of the greatest artists of all time.


Electric Ladyland was the name Hendrix had given his new studio in New York City, but he did not record the album in his new studio because it was not done yet. Jimi was notorious for recording no matter where he was, so the idea of building him his own studio seemed like a no-brainer. But even with his own studio, Jimi still had his engineer Eddie Kramer fly to wherever Jimi was in the world to work in some far-away studio. It was a habit that resulted in hours and hours of unreleased material, but it was a habit that also lead to significant financial problems for Jimi's business empire.

As a collection of music, Electric Ladyland represents the kind of inventive spirit Hendrix had in the studio and how different the world sounded to his ears. When Jimi talked about music, he talked about it in terms of sounds representing the things he saw as well as heard. In many of the songs on Electric Ladyland, you can hear examples of what that means. In "And The Gods Made Love," Jimi uses the manipulation of his instrument to represent exactly what the title infers. Throughout the entire album, you can hear the sound of waves hitting the shores and fire as it creates light in an old Arabian lamp. It is all there, and all you need to do to understand it is listen to it.

It seems almost sacrilegious to refer to Electric Ladyland as a pop album, but that is what the industry considered it when it was released. Songs like "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and "Crosstown Traffic" helped to deliver those signature songs that the masses would be able to latch onto, but this album was not created to deliver hits. It was another part of the huge musical soul that drove Jimi Hendrix to record.

The tremendous success of his first two albums paved the way for Jimi to release a double album, but the record company was a bit disappointed that it did not get the series of radio hits that it got with the first two records. Electric Ladyland could very well be the culmination of everything Hendrix wanted to accomplish in the rock genre, and it could be his farewell to guitar-driven music. After Electric Ladyland, Hendrix began experimenting with large ensembles of musicians that were destined to deliver another genre of music.

Electric Ladyland is as much an accomplishment as it is the end of an era. Even though Hendrix would live for two more years after this album was released, it was obvious that he was done with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the "wild man from Borneo" image. Rumors of an Experience reunion floated around prior to and after his death, but it is something Jimi would have begrudgingly done. He was an artist, and Electric Ladyland is only a small sliver of a sample of what Jimi Hendrix could have accomplished had he not been taken from us so early.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

George N Root III is a musician and Jimi Hendrix follower. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.

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