An orgy of creativity

By Sergio Ariza

Electric Ladyland was the definite explotion of Jimi Hendrix, the moment when he realised that his talent couldn’t be contained in the three minute songs format his producer (and discoverer) Chas Chandler, wanted to keep. The recording of this record was an orgy of creativity, splashed with drugs and invited guests, recorded in the wee hours of the morning, when all the juke joints in New York had closed.

The last record of the Experience is one of the greatest in history. Hendrix had broadened his palette, he’d now added jazz or things that would end up germinating in progressive rock. The trio format was no longer enough so the record is full of collaborations with other artists like, Dave Mason, Chris Wood, Steve Winwood from Traffic, drummer Buddy Miles, bassman Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane) and Al Kooper. His inspiration was overflowing and to make room for all his ideas the record became a double album that defined the times.

On this, his 3rd record, Hendrix had reached technical perfection when it comes to playing guitar, but let’s not forget that along with the guitarist was a great composer of songs. So we can enjoy here Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), Long Hot Summer Night, Crosstown Traffic, Burning of the Midnight Lamp and the spectacular and delicate 1983(A merman I should turn out to be). And don’t forget his incredible covers, first Come On, also known as Let the Good Times Roll, by Earl King, a radical adaptation, bringing a R&B number to planet Hendrix, with a much faster and rockier version , with one of his strongest solos where he  shines again with the wah wah, an effect of which this album can be considered its Sistine Chapel.

And then, on his own pedestal is the COVER, the most famous robbery in the history of rock, where Hendrix steals Dylans All Along the Watchtower forever with a solo in 4 different parts, the first played directly without effects, the second with a slide (where he supposedly used a lighter) and a potent use of the delay, the third with a psychedelic effect on his wah wah pedal and an ending which can be considered as a rhythmic solo, where Hendrix uses different chord projections. It is one of those defining moments in electric guitar history and is usually named the best solo in his career and one of the proudest for what likely became the most famous guitar in history: the Fender Stratocaster.

Of course most of the songs on the record are composed with his beloved Epiphone FT-79 acoustic. Then he would take them to the studio and polish them off with the Strat, adding all possible effects with the help of his right hand man on this recording, engineer Eddie Kramer. His total take over of production control left Chandler alone and even broke the Experience when Noel Redding jumped ship at the same time as  Hendrix’s music stretched to infinity and beyond.

The recording could have been chaotic, with Hendrix doing endless sessions that began as jams with friends in a juke joint and wound up with them being invited to the recording studio. That’s how a jam on Catfish Blues with Traffic ended up becoming the memorable Voodoo Child and later would become a new number that carried the Delta Mississippi blues to the rings of Saturn.

At the end of the day, that orgy of creativity and drugs took its toll, and Hendrix saw himself before the daunting task of trying to exceed it. But that flood of inspiration sated the whole world, changing the rules for rock, blues, and jazz (or does anyone think there would have been Bitches Brew without Electric Ladyland?) forever.