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Rob Greaves

The Cream of The Crate - Record #12

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"All my songs happen on the spur of the moment"
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This is number twelve in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my collection that I believe have significant musical value.

James Marshal Hendrix – better known as Jimi Hendrix. Although this is a retrospective look at his unbelievable 1968 release of Electric Ladyland (released in October of that year), it is impossible not to focus on the man, as we look at his music.

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The notorious Electric Ladyland Cover, that Jimi is reputed as not liking

There were only four album releases during his life. Three were with The Experience, being:

  • 1967 – Are You Experienced
  • 1967 – Axis Bold As Love
  • 1968 – Electric Ladyland

While the fourth was with his group A Band of Gypsys:

  • 1970 – Band of Gypsys (Live)

So, why does this album hold pride of place? I do have all four of those official releases that were produced before his death and many of the posthumous releases, official and unofficial. Well it would be easy to argue simply on the basis of value for money, for this was his only double album release with 16 tracks in total.

Now it can just as easily be argued, that with a maestro like Hendrix, it really is an issue of ‘quality’, and not ‘quantity’. That argument would be hard to deny except, we are in the splendid position of having both!
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Now it’s not to say that there are not remarkable tracks on the other albums. There are! In my humble and seriously biased opinion, there are no weak tracks on these albums. Just take Are You Experienced as an example. Foxy Lady, Red House and Are You Experienced, are tracks that show an incredible mastery of his guitar, and his ability to adapt existing styles to his own unique technique.

However, with Electric Ladyland, it all just coalesces in the most skin tingling and and mind-blowing album of ….? Well, here we begin to suffer from the issue that mere words cannot adequately describe what we hear. In this album his music, reaches the height of his compositional skills and is lovingly blended with some of the most unbelievable guitar playing – ever! Yes he is ably assisted by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell (and despite the friction between them, aren’t we lucky that political correctness had not altered the line up for this album?).
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Noel Redding during the Electric Ladyland sessions, and, Mitch Mitchell on drums during one of the sessions

Jimi's collaboration on this album included with a range of outside musicians- Dave Mason, Chris Wood and Steve Winwood from Traffic; future Band of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles; Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady; former Dylan organist Al Kooper; and members of 'the Serfs': Mike Finnegan on organ, Freddie Smith on saxophone, and Larry Faucette on congas.

However make no mistake, although he suffered from insecurity, reputably recording 50 takes of “Gypsy Eyes”, this is HIS album, with him stroking, caressing, powering, shaking, being some of the superlatives that can be used to describe his playing. Jimi also worked extensively with the bass guitar on a number of the tracks.

A brief mention of the famous cover. It appears as though the cover was far from what Jimi wanted, and I have attached a picture, which accurately reflected what the great man wanted, as opposed to what he got. Would the album have been as successful if the existing cover had not been used? Of course it would. However, it did result in a cover that is both memorable, and certainly at the time because of its nature, assisted in having people talk about it. You know the old saying; there is no such thing as bad publicity!
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A picture reputed to be closer to what Jimi expected the cover to be

The album I have wasn’t the original release but comes from an amazing (now almost impossible to get) White Boxed Set released in 1976.
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I don’t know if you have noticed, but depending on where and when Electic Ladyland was released, the track listings vary. My boxed set album mirrors the English release, only you need to remember – this was the halcyon days of vinyl. People would stack their player with multiple albums, and so the tracks on this album may seem to be out of order, but you would put LP#1, Side 1 on your player, and then LP#2, Side 2 on top thus you would hear them in the correct order to which Jimi intended. All versions of this album commence with the same 1st side on LP#1

  1. And the Gods Made Love
  2. Have You Ever Been (To Electric ladyland)
  3. Cross Town Traffic
  4. Voodoo Chile

From here they vary. My copy runs in this order from Side 2, LP#1.

  1. Still Raining, Still Dreaming
  2. House Burning Down
  3. All Along the Watchtower
  4. Voodoo Chile (slight return)

LP#2 – Side 1

  1. Little Miss Strange
  2. Long, Hot Summer Night
  3. Come On – part 1
  4. Gipsy Eyes
  5. The Burning of the Midnight Lamp

LP#2 - Side 2

  1. Rainy day, Dream Away
  2. 1983. . . (A Merman I should Turn To Be)
  3. Moon, Turn the Tides

The album opens with, And the Gods made Love. The only criticism here is that really, it is a case of incorrect tense and that maybe it should have been‘And the God made Love. For from the moment the track opens until it finishes, we are left in no doubt, that Jimi did not play his guitar, he made love with it! We move into the track with the album title. He asks, maybe he pleads, have we ever been to Electric Ladyland? – now, this is a rhetoric question. He doesn’t need an answer, for HE has! This is a beautifully crafted track that leaves us in no doubt that we are entering into a journey unlike any we have undertaken before.

And so we move through Crosstown Traffic, pausing only to try and wipe those tyre tracks that lay across our backs. We leave the track, a jangle of elements, a collage of images, the organized clutter and chaos of the musical city he has taken us through. How can he leave us in this state?

He can’t, and he doesn’t. We don’t have time to get concerned before one of the most haunting melodies of all times is upon us. The man, the Voodoo Man of electric guitars, THE Voodoo Chile is among us. When he tells us he can move right on up to a mountain, and chop it down with the back of his hand – we believe him, for he is the Master, he can do it all.

Still Raining, Still Dreaming and it could rain and I would keep dreaming if this track were playing.
Rainy day, rain all day
Ain't no use in gettin' uptight
Just let it groove its own way
Let it drain your worries away yeah
Lay back and groove on a rainy day
hey Lay back and dream on a rainy day
Lay back and groove on a rainy day Lay back Oh yeah

This is a sublime track and when that wah wah pedal commences we know we are about to be taken on a very spacey journey, it could be the ‘spaciest’ on the album, but it isn’t - that very specialk is yet to come. Mike Finnegan on organ, and Buddy Miles on drums. We are suddenly transported from a land of water, to a land of fire. A man of calculated extremes with those extremes expressed through his music. Suddenly, House Burning Down.
Says Hendrix: "All my songs happen on the spur of the moment. On some records you hear all this clash and bang and fanciness, but all we're doing is laying down the guitar tracks - then we add echo here and there, but we're not adding false electronic things. We use the same thing anyone else would, but we use it with imagination and common sense. Like on House Burning Down, we made the guitar sound like it was on fire. It's constantly changing dimensions, and up on top that lead guitar is cutting through everything." (

Bob Dylan, no question, a brilliant composer – so what happens when a man of Hendrix’s undeniable talent melds with a brilliant composition by Dylan. It results in yet another classic piece of music. When Hendrix sings and plays All Along the Watchtower, we are instantly transported there – When Jimi sings, "the wind begins to howl" – it bloody well does, and a shiver goes down our spines. In some ways it’s almost as if Dylan wrote this track knowing what Hendrix would go through. For when Jimi sings the opening verse, he could very well be bearing his soul to us.
"There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth

We have been exposed to Voodoo Chile, why do a slight return? Jimi did nothing without a reason. In the main version we are exposed to the raw power of the Voodoo Chile. Now in the reprise, we have a shorter version but, much heavier with the wah wah pedal. It isn’t a matter of which version is the better – one grew out of the other, and has its own amazing strengths.

LP #2. In what is an amazing sign of confidence in Noel Redding, we are presented with his composition, Little Miss Strange. Now I can’t believe the number of references that credit Jimi with writing this track. Clearly those people didn’t just look at the credits on the album, but even so – it is clearly not a Hendrix style of composing and is very much a classy British Pop track with vocals provided by Noel.

Long Hot Summer Night. It grabs us from the opening with a short powerful riff that under any other circumstances any other group would have stretched out for all it’s worth. He has no need. This may be his ‘sop’ to putting a commercial track onto this album, I don’t know – it is certainly a popular track and given Jimi’s concern over his voice, it is amazing that he provides all the backing vocals as well.

Come On – part 1 is a composition by Earl King (he of “Let the Good Times Roll") fame. In fact this IS that track, but redone in a way that only Hendrix could do, and when he declares, let the good times roll, and cranks up that Strat, they don’t roll, they erupt. What a great track for a party, it is a good times reminding us that it he was anything but mono dimensional in his choice of pieces to play.

There is no doubt about it Jimi loved the ladies (and they loved him back). So Gypsy Eyes is no surprise (at least in concept). Gypsy Eyes may on the surface seem to be a lament of a man who has lost his lady with those Gypsy Eyes, but it is far more. It is an incredibly complex piece of composition. It has at least two different drum variations, it features a complex interplay of guitar riffs between the guitar and bass, it has an amazing melodic pattern, makes use of the pentatonic scale (for the musicians reading this), and the goddamn guitar is nothing short of brilliant – with its long decaying single notes. None of these in themselves is new, or haven’t been done over and over again by guitarists. But how Hendrix assembles and uses them, provides us with a song, that is enjoyable to listen to for the audience, and challenging for the musician/composer!

The Burning of the Midnight Lamp just continues to reinforce the genius of the man. Who the hell would conceive of using a harpsichord in electrosonic music? It might have been the type of choice that Brian Jones could have made, but Jimi was a unique musician in his own right, but I doubt that even he could have thought of using it in such a strong piece of music. The opening riff pattern remains burnt, indelibly, into my brain – the guitar is so expressive, but that delicate edge of the harpsichord provides the yin/yang push/pull that can turn a great piece of music into a brilliant piece of music. His voice on this is as good as anything he sings, and he expresses his passion with his voice almost (note, almost) as much as he does with his guitar. If I wrote just one track this well, I would die a happy man!

So, we come to the final side.

Rainy Day, Dream Away. This is a just a groovy, groovy track. Once again Mike Finnegan is on organ, Larry Faucette on Congas, Buddy Miles on drums and Freddy Smith on Tenor Sax
Rainy day, dream away
Ah let the sun take a holiday
Flowers bathe an' ah see the children play
Lay back and groove on a rainy day

From the moment the sax and the organ kick in at the beginning, so laid back, so… well, ‘groovy’, we know we are in for something special, little knowing that it is just a prelude to something far more than special.

That unbelievable track is the 13 minute 25 second audio-psychotronic odyssey, “1983. . . (A Merman I should Turn To Be)”. This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of composition and playing in modern electric guitar, bass and drums composing. Playing on this track are: Jimi, Noel and Mitch, ably supported by Chris Wood( ex- Traffic) on Flute. After Voodoo Chile it is the longest track ever recorded and released on any of the four official pre-death albums.

Writing for the BBC, critic Chris Jones described the track as a "stoned classic", praising the way it "[utilises] washes of backwards tape, jazzy timeshifts and far out fish-friendly lyrics to tell the tale of future apocalypse and return to the oceans".

Now, some 44 years later, I believe that description was totally inadequate. This is a truly symphonic piece of work. It may be the only real symphony ever written and played without a symphony orchestra instrument in mind. It is true genius in every way the word can be thought. The undersea journey is a journey of the inner and outer limits of our imaginations. He creates using the electric guitar in ways not conceived of before. Everything that can be done on a guitar to produce a sound, and experience, an emotion, is done! The music is forward, it is backward, it twists and turns, rises and falls, only to re-emerge to again form a mobius strip of sounds.

Then when we think we have all the images we can be provided with, the man reminds us of his genius with words. [If you are interested in these truly brilliant lyrics, just click on1983]

Writers have been confused as to why Jimi ‘destroys’ the piece with his playing at the end. Rubbish! Jimi does no such thing, he climaxes, his brings us ever so gently to the edge, then in the manner of the creation and destruction of the Universe, that all things that are created must return to that from which they come, he suddenly lets it die.

But wait! There’s more!

The final track is Moon, Turn the Tides.
It is only – 58 seconds long. In many ways as short as the previous piece was long. We don’t die! we are reborn among the stars and stellar space of his imagination. Thus the journey through this truly remarkable piece of work is concluded.

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The Electric Lady Studio

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And the Gods Made Love into Electric Ladyland

Still Raining, still dreaming

Burning of the Midnight Lamp

Rainy day, dream away
into approximately 4 minutes 30seconds of 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)

Sadly there only appears to be two live tracks of Jimi playing pieces from the Electric Ladyland album, live.

Voodoo Chile (Slight return)

All Along the Watchtower

Finally, if you have time this is the video of the Electric Ladyland sessions.(Oh, and it is in English!)

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums

#1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

#2 – Otis Redding: Otis Blue/ Otis Redding Sings Soul

#3 – Dr John The Night Tripper: Gris Gris

#4 – Spectrum: ROYGBIV

#5 – Son House: The Real Delta Blues

#6 – Cruisin ‘61

#7 – Live At The Station Hotel

#8 – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

#9 – Moon Mullican: Rock it to the Moon

#10 – Billy Thorpe: Time Traveller

#11 – Bobby and Laurie: Cum Sum Ambulant (Hitch Hiker)
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Updated 8th April 2013 at 08:11 PM by Mick Pacholli

Rob Greaves , The Cream of The Crate