When Jimi Hendrix Released the Mind-Bending ‘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. And there’s 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.
But once they got past the initial shock of absorbing so much music in one big lump, patient listeners came to realize that Electric Ladyland further pushed the sonic breakthroughs Hendrix explored on the Experience’s first two records, Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love, to the very limits of his boundless creativity (not to mention the era's available recording technology).
Among the familiar Hendrix hallmarks pushed into overdrive are guitar-powered singles ("Crosstown Traffic," "Gypsy Eyes"), ethereal psychedelia ("Have You Ever Been [To Electric Ladyland]," "Burning of the Midnight Lamp"), traditional (albeit epic-length) blues jams ("Voodoo Chile," "Still Raining, Still Dreaming") and six-string fireworks galore ("House Burning Down," "Voodoo Chile [Slight Return]"). And while the saxophone-infused "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and arty space-jazz-fusion of "1983 ... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" tested listeners' open minds, at least they were saved until side three.
So, whether one recognized Electric Ladyland’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. An album both of its time and well ahead of its time.
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