The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968)
No matter who comes along now, whenever they try to make one of those ‘Greatest Guitarists of All Time’ lists, the #1 spot will always be reserved for Jimi Hendrix. It’s one of the immutable laws of Rock. Which is how it should be. Hendrix redefined the guitar (and the blues) like no one else. He achieved sounds that still mystify guitarists today. ‘How the hell did he do that?’ But this designation often overshadows and negates Hendrix’s other skills as singer and songwriter and lyricist and producer, which were every bit as awesome as his wah-wah wailing. Not to mention the incredible playing of Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums (who were usually both soloing along with Jimi, more like a Free-Jazz trio than a rock group). Forty years on, the songs of The Experience still sound like some of the freshest, most alive sounding Rock ever created. And though all of his albums are must-haves, for my money, the double-album Electric Ladyland still stands as the ultimate manifestation of these sonic forces. In an era defined by experimentation, the psychedelic scene of the 60s often saw bands adding ‘trippy’ sounds or gimmicks to their songs, or using distortion and feedback or euphemistic lyrics to emulate or allude to the drug experience. Sometimes it was just folk-rock with a weird warped guitar solo in the middle. But a song like (my personal favourite) “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” sounds truly psychedelic. That song is a journey I still find thrilling. Hendrix filled these songs with swirling details and blurry embellishments that were panned across the stereo channels and swam through your mind, weaving a world that continued to reveal its fractal patterns with each listen. Jimi put the acid in acetate. And it’s this rich layered textured brew that continues to spellbind people, and why there are Blues fans and Rock fans and Funk fans and Psych fans and Prog fans who all worship at the altar of Jimi. And they’re all right. He influenced all those genres. And even though he is an immortal icon now, seen on posters and tie-died shirts all over the world, every time I hear that opening roar about 30 seconds into “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” I think: Holy Moly, we still don’t appreciate Hendrix enough…and I also think: if anyone could stand up next to a mountain and chop it down with the edge of their hand, Jimi probably could.
By Decoy Spoon