Jimi Hendrix changed everything. Each of us have contemporary guitarists that we adore, appreciate, and admire, and they owe much of their expertise to Hendrix. On Electric Ladyland, the ultimate guitar hero lays out all of his artistic ambition, resulting in a long and colourful trip that successfully showcases the depths of his mastery.
Though the songwriting is good and often very audacious, the purest display of Hendrix’s creativity is heard through his monumental guitar playing, which is at the forefront of every cut. Tone, composition, technique, finesse, flair — Hendrix’s sound was revolutionary, and on Electric Ladyland it is arranged prominently in the mix, to be admired and treasured by its listeners. It purposefully overshadows his singing (secondary) voice, and it suits the music to do so. The energy of Hendrix’s playing spreads to his associates, who do a fine job of accompanying the guru; matching and sustaining Hendrix’s drive, but never outshining him. The improvised nature of the album's extended instrumental segments radiate a dynamic spirit that remains thrilling today, as intense as any of Swans’ breathless grooves that comprise their monstrous records.
Hendrix and co jam with steaming passion, and that type of heat is timeless, but it can also be taxing after a period of time. Perhaps the main issue with Electric Ladyland (and why Hendrix is known more for specific performances and songs rather than full albums) is that there’s just so much material here. It’s difficult to gauge whether certain tracks drag due to lesser songwriting, or because they simply merge with the rest of the action — even if the quality is high.
It’s a question that we find ourselves asking all too often: can you have too much of a good thing? Maybe. Even so, if The Jimi Hendrix Experience do fatigue their listeners, they sound great doing it. You don’t need to be totally tuned in to to get everything out of Electric Ladyland; such is the nature of its ambiance. To an extent, this is psychedelic background music, the kind only Hendrix, with his divine craft and exquisite ability, could muster. It plays like a vivid dream: beautiful, chaotic, and vigorous. This is prime Hendrix.
8 out of 10
It’s obvious why this is considered a classic. It’s also obvious why André, Andrew, and I hadn’t listened to it before. It’s instinctive, messy, and rambling, with shimmers of the divine. Electric Ladyland speaks in a kind of rock and roll tongues, sitting Jimi Hendrix front and centre and rolling with it.
Hendrix was a peerless talent, and his presence alone is enough to make the album a treat. The pairing of his smooth, homey voice with mind-bending, often obscene guitar work makes for one of the great Jekyll and Hyde music dynamics. This isn’t cuddly, fuzzy psychedelia. Spoony fucky maybe. With Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell completing the trio in fine style, the tracks — be they atmospheric titbits or epic mystic jams — are always engaging.
The record as a whole doesn’t match the heights of “All Along the Watchtower” or “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, but then few things do. I find *Electric Ladyland *works better as something to be dipped into than it does as a single-listen experience; that way the intricacies of each track shine through without the onset of solo fatigue.
8 out of 10
It really is an experience to listen through Electric Ladyland‘s constantly changing scenery, jumping between the racous, driving thump of “Crosstown Traffic”, to the swelling virtuoso epic of “Voodoo Chile”, to the Beatles-smattered “Little Miss Strange”. All the while, Hendrix has his guitar up front and centre in the mix, pushing his smoother vocals behind it and cutting through the rest of the instrumentation. While some albums fail to recreate the live atmosphere when they need to, Electric Ladyland manages it seemingly without effort, as solos flood out into long jams across the entire album.
This is however, both a blessing and a curse. As the album continues to flow, an odd fatigue sets in, despite retaining a high quality. You wouldn’t want to cut anything here (especially the closer, delivering a stonking solo to round everything off) but there is perhaps just a tad too much. Still, I consider it an essential and brilliant listen in spite of this, and the legacy Electric Ladyland, and Jimi Hendrix himself, has left makes it all the more important.
8 out of 10