JIMI HENDRIX — Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix Experience) (review)

JIMI HENDRIX — Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix Experience) album cover Album · 1968 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Warthur
The Jimi Hendrix Experience's final album captures the band just at the moment it disintegrated - when Jimi's soaring ambitions finally reached the point where Noel and Mitch simply couldn't keep up any more. Nowhere is this more obvious than on Noel's sole composition on the album, "Little Miss Strange" - an unambitious slice of 60s pop which shows absolutely no songwriting progress or development over "She's So Fine" on Axis: Bold as Love. But even as the structure of the trio disintegrates before your very ears, wonderful things come out of the cracks. The epic "Voodoo Chile", a sprawling improvisation encompassing a whole range of blues styles, doesn't even feature Redding on it - Mitch is still on drums, but Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady is on bass, and Steve Winwood guests on organ.

The album also sees Hendrix moving away from the songwriting approach that dominated his first two albums and going for increasingly long songs, no longer content to confine his ideas to brief two-to-three minute bursts. It's not that he's forgotten how to produce fast-paced and punchy short tracks - this album includes Crosstown Traffic, one of Hendrix's best songs in that style - it's just that he's less interested in it. This does mean that some of the shorter songs on the album aren't quite up to the standards of the epics - Long Hot Summer Night seems kind of shallow, and the cover of Come On (Let the Good Times Roll) is a bit of fun but doesn't strive to be much more than a bit of fun. Whilst Mitch seems game for this new direction, Noel isn't featured on either of the album's big epics (Voodoo Chile and 1983...A Merman I Should Turn To Be), both of which result from jam sessions which Noel wasn't sitting in on. But that isn't to say that the epics on the album aren't the only attraction, or that Noel isn't a presence at all - songs like Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (a heavy, proto-metallic summarisation of Voodoo Chile), and the awe-inspiring and definitive cover of Dylan's All Along the Watchtower show the trio in full flight. But it was more than clear at this point that Jimi not only didn't need the trio structure any more, he positively needed to branch out and experiment with other artists and band configurations in order to give full expression to his many ideas. The album isn't perfect - again, Little Miss Strange just doesn't seem to belong - but as far as a swansong for the Experience goes, it's a truly fine one.
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