55 Years Ago: Jimi Hendrix Bends Minds With ‘Electric Ladyland’
One of rock’s most groundbreaking and ambitious albums, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland, arrived in stores on Oct. 16, 1968. In a way, humanity is still trying to catch up to its futuristic musical vision.
Certainly, very few of those who heard the double LP upon release could easily wrap their heads around the eclectic and unpredictable songs sprawled across its challenging four sides of vinyl.
There’s also no denying much had changed in the Hendrix camp (management, band upheavals, legendary drug consumption, etc.) over the course of Electric Ladyland's oft-interrupted and continent-hopping yearlong recording process.
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Once they got past the initial shock of absorbing so much music in one big lump, however, patient listeners came to realize that Electric Ladyland further pushed the sonic breakthroughs Hendrix explored on the Experience’s first two records. After Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love, Hendrix went to the very limits of his boundless creativity – not to mention the era's available recording technology.
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A Work of Formidable, If Unwieldy Genius
Among the familiar Hendrix hallmarks pushed into overdrive on Electric Ladyland were guitar-powered singles ("Crosstown Traffic," "Gypsy Eyes") and ethereal psychedelia ("Have You Ever Been [To Electric Ladyland]," "Burning of the Midnight Lamp").
There were also traditional (albeit epic-length) blues jams ("Voodoo Chile," "Still Raining, Still Dreaming") and six-string fireworks galore ("House Burning Down," "Voodoo Chile [Slight Return]"). Elsewhere, the saxophone-infused "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and arty space-jazz-fusion of "1983 ... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" served to open listeners' minds still further.
Whether they recognized this LP’s formidable, if unwieldy, genius right away or had to work for it, the final studio album released during Hendrix’s lifetime was a stone-cold classic. Electric Ladyland remains an album both of its time and well ahead of its time.
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Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci
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