TGR prt 9: Electric Ladyland

Posted: January 19, 2011 by kingcrimsonprog in Music Reviews


This album is kind of too new for me to belong in this series, as I only got it Hendrix in either February or March of last year, perhaps around the time I started this blog (Although it is not the newest album on the list, Deep Purple In Rock is a whole season newer at least)

So this is not so much a Grand Relistening as a collection of my thoughts on one of the most famous albums ever made. First off, this album needs a serious track sequencing overhaul, it begins with a music free intro, followed by a two minute intro like song, followed by the hit single and then followed by a 15 minute long blues jam. That is simply no way to start an album which you intend people to listen through in one go, which presumably you do before the invention of track skip buttons. I guess you could listen to the double album on side at a time, and in this regard the placement of the 15 minute tracks is more acceptable. With record company mess-arounds being what they are, Hendrix track-lists are completely mercurial anyway so I best not get hung up on this aspect too much, but it still manages leaves a sour taste in the mouth upon every listen.

To further expand on this opening selection of tracks, the first is just bumping noises, fair enough. The next song, ‘Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)’ is one of the weirdest songs I’ve ever heard, I cannot get a handle at all, it may just be as simple as it is in a non standard time signature and there are two guitar parts which overlap… but all I hear is a sprawling, mutant mess which cannot be touched as it shifts and drips through your fingers. I don’t understand what that song is or what it is doing… very progressive I suppose, but making me question just what is going on isn’t the best way to open an album.

Next comes mega hit ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ which sounds way too vital and explosive to follow or precede the tracks it is nestled between. Finally, there is ‘Voodoo Child,’ which starts off as the best Blues song on a Hendrix studio album, with a cool keyboard hum that gives it an oppressive psych feel. Then it gets bored, turns into a big group jam session and at times descends into unmusical messing around, which rather spoils the whole thing. Long songs are cool when they are structured, Jamming is cool as long as it is still musical… Long, structureless and unmusical jams are just a boring and mildly frustrating waste of time. In my opinion that is, I’m perfectly aware how many millions of people love every second of unmusical jamming and I don’t have a problem with that, but these are my thoughts we’re dealing with here.

The rest of the album is a mixture between two styles, slightly mellow songs with a group jam feel or energetic, manager pleasing rock songs. It is also true to say that I divide them in the same categories only with the titles replaced with ‘dull,’ and ‘brilliant.’

Songs like ‘House Burning Down,’ and ‘Gypsy Eyes,’ are what I want from Hendrix and why I like this album, however ‘1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be),’ starts off utterly brilliant for about three minutes, but then falls over and dies and after a while the unmusical jam thing kicks in. Unfortunately now I just think of the song as 15 minutes of blandness instead of the best three minute track of his career.

Its interesting to note that the best two songs on the album (for me at least) are covers, ‘Let The Good Times Roll,’ and ‘All Along The Watch Tower,’ are absolute gold, its just a shame Hendrix didn’t write them… he did considerably rework them though, so that counts for something.

Overall, this is an album that isn’t as good as it is supposed to be… except when you are listening to the most common track type on here, when it is one of the best albums you’ll ever hear… a weird combo that I can’t resolve into one complete opinion.

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