Seattle, May 2009. It’s raining. Time to put on my favorite record, Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix.
I check to see if my downstairs neighbor is home, her car is gone, so I turn the stereo up until the word “Max” appears and back away. Getting ready for the intense hits of drive-by sound, searing notes that hardly sound like guitar. The intro goes into pop melody and Jimi (who thought he was a bad singer) singing softly, expertly the question “Have you ever been to Electric Ladyland?”
Most people don’t know the soft side of Jimi. But this album and Axis show a different side of a guy most people think is “just” the world’s best guitar player. Rock intro comes in with the next song “Crosstown Traffic”, funky groove, kazoo-like vocal melody. Words about love…
As “Voodoo Chile” starts, Ladyland starts to really shake the house, reminding me of electronic music. It’s physical, you feel every note. It’s trippy, 3-dimensional. Yet this record is still warm, earthy… It’s like the blues got in a spaceship.
The album continues in its greatness, but it’s the 3rd album side that really brings this record into the realm of genius (IMHO).
The three songs on album side C are jazzy, cinematic, psychedelic and way ahead of their time. Jimi released this record in 1968, and the sounds are still innovative, current, relevant today.
I wish I could find an audio sample with all 3 songs in a row. But I will play them this Friday night at midnight. So if you go to the KEXP Streaming Archive (after the show) and type in May 23, 12am you will hear it in all its glory.
2.) 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – 13:39
3.) Moon, Turn The Tides…gently gently away – 1:00
Nothing makes the rain seem more beautiful and right. Here’s “1983…”
Electric Ladyland was Jimi’s only #1 charting album. It was the first record he produced on his own, leaving behind the strict radio rules of former producer Chas Chandler. Jimi plays bass and keyboards on many of the trax, along with guitar sounds that are morphed by cutting-edge 1968 technology where he could stretch time, run things backwards or cut-and-paste.
This record makes me mourn the loss of album sides. Each side has a whole different feel. Today it’s hard to find one whole record that works as a story. But this one does both, works as a story and also is artistic in its sections: passionate, emotional, risky… Just like Jimi himself.
Join DJ Michele Myers Fridays at 9pm for Nite Life on KEXP. Every Friday at midnight she does this album spotlight, telling a story and playing 3 songs from the record. Michele also produces KEXP Documentaries and hosts Wake Up Thursdays 6-9am for KEXP in NYC on Radio New York 91.5FM.