There’s not much that can be said that hasn’t already been illustrated over the forty plus years since Hendrix was tragically taken from us. So we’ll just cut out all of the mindlessly mundane praise that you’ve all heard over and over again. Yes, Hendrix was, and still is, the greatest guitar player to ever live, and just about every guitar god today will tell you the exact same thing. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to talk about an album that transcends far beyond the stratosphere of musical consummation”Are You Experienced?” may have been the album to start it all, but “Electric Ladyland” was the one that ended it all. Just about everyone tried to keep up with Jimi Hendrix at this point, but simply couldn’t. Never mind the inimitable musical and lyrical quality. What was also groundbreaking was the fact that Hendrix was doing more with the studio than what many thought was humanly possible; he treated it like a separate instrument. Even as a casual listener, you can hear a sound that doesn’t sound even sound like it reared its head from the exhausting epoch that was the late sixties; his albums displayed a zeitgeist of musical deconstruction that foretold the state of modern sound as we know it. The mechanics on “Electric Ladyland” are just as extraterrestrial as they are on “Axis: Bold As Love,” but you can still hear the trademark prevalence of the Blues all throughout the record. Another noticeable quality is obvious stripped-down ruggedness that pretty much shows that you don’t need pristine production to create a beautiful sound.
With the opening intro, (…And the Gods Made Love), you pretty much know you’re entering a world of psychedelic serenity and utter madness. from there you have your melodic aphrodisiac, (Have You Ever Been(To Electric Ladyland)) to prep you up for the unspeakable ferocity that is (Cross Town Traffic), before transitioning into the albums longest track, (Voodoo Chile). This song is well worth the fifteen minute listen; it’s a perfect representation of the bands signature improvisation. And what makes the tune so amazing is the fact that is was a last minute song the band had recorded with a bunch of other fellow musicians they had been jamming on stage with that night; the song is nothing but one big, bombastic jam. Mixed with the Delta and Chicago-driven blues that helped shaped Hendrixs’ style, (Voodoo Chile) makes for a quintessential staple in the temple of jam rock.
At this point you have a nucleus of several hard-hitting, blues rock numbers which includes (Long, Hot Summer Night), the Earl King cover, (Come On(Let the Good Times Roll)), (Gypsy Eyes), and (Rainy Day, Dream Away). And of course your atypical psychedelic pop numbers that ignite a flare for the soulful and funky, which consists of the mesmerizing (Burning of the Midnight Lamp) and the Noel Redding-sung (Little Miss Strange). Now this is where we get into some uncharted territory.
Clocking in at thirteen minutes is the sprawling sea epic, (1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)). This fantastical portrait of surreal imagery that could only hit towards a post-apocalyptic world or anti-war protests offers up more than just that: It’s an aquatic love ballad that taps into your spiritual emotions. (Still Raining, Still Dreaming) is a funk-inspired reprise to (Rainy Day, Dream Away), with some of the wah pedal work ever put to wax; Hendrixs’ weapon of choice for many of his tunes. (House Burning Down) showcases more of wild and poetic storytelling that’s both electrifying and quirky; his Bob Dylan influence here is blatant, but meticulously placed.
And speaking of Bob Dylan, the biggest hit off this album just so happens to be a cover of (All Along the Watch Tower). Hendrix attacks this quiet folk composition with such uncompromising power and delicacy that he makes it his own, surpassing the original in every way with his polished and nuanced vocabulary of the guitar. Finally, the closing track: (Voodoo Child: A Slight Return); what a perfect way to end a masterpiece. This here is the ultimate guitar song; the holy scripture of what you can do with the instrument. Every aspiring guitarist uses this song as a blueprint; many have tried to replicate this sound, and many have failed. In short, listening to this album isn’t just listening to it….it’s experiencing it in all of its unflinching glory and powerhouse brilliance.