Jimi Hendrix Experience- Electric Ladyland 55th anniversary-pt1

By Spring 1968 Jimi Hendrix had returned triumphantly to the US from London after fifteen months, having electrified the rock world with two smash albums, the revolutionary debut Are You Experienced?  and Axis: Bold as Love. It was all being organized by veteran English musician Chas Chandler of The Animals who had given up pop stardom after discovering Jimi Hendrix struggling in New York’s Greenwich Village a scant two years earlier, wagered everything, took Jimi to London, put a band together for him, financed the project out of his own pocket, and mentored the young raw Hendrix through those first two groundbreaking recordings. But practically everything about this third album Electric Ladyland  would be different.

For starters, Electric Ladyland   was double in size. The album’s covers ( there were several, front, back, and inside, and not without controversy ) looked different than either RUX?  or Axis. Electric Ladyland‘s  sound was quite varied, at times more muscular, earthier, bluesier, jazzier, less psychedelic, more…well…American sounding. “A fever dream of underwater electric soul…” is how Rolling Stone editors describe the double album when ranking Electric Ladyland  at #55 on their Top 500 Albums of All Time. Hendrix’s return to the homeland security of New York City after living and recording Are You Experienced  and Axis: Bold As Love  in London is reflected in his embracing so many Afro-American musical touchstones on Electric Ladyland. These very un-British touches include the falsetto background vocals of “Crosstown Traffic”, the rave up rhythm and blues of Earl King’s “Come On pt 1”, the jazz of “Rainy Day Dream Away/ Still Raining, Still Dreaming” with Buddy Miles laying down an Elvin Jones-like groove, and the steamy hot  midnight blues of “Voodoo Chile” featuring the thunderous bass of Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady, the soulful Hammond organ of Traffic’s Steve Winwood, and the wettest, widest lead guitar ever captured on tape courtesy of James Marshall Hendrix. Biographer and reissue producer John McDermott is featured along with one of the last interviews with dear sweet Experience drummer John “Mitch” Mitchell in the first of  our two-part In the Studio special on Electric Ladyland. –Redbeard