Friday, 21 August 2015

"Electric Ladyland" by THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE (2010 Experience Hendrix/Legacy CD and DVD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...The Moon Turned Fire Red..."

I suppose in truth it's probably impossible in 2015 to properly assess or even be rational about something as iconic as "Electric Ladyland". And yet for dudes like me who saw older teenage boys grooving to its wild guitar-scapes (I was 10 when it was released in 1968) – I joined in the head-shaking and tennis racket guitar hero shapes they were throwing in sitting rooms with large mahogany Stereograms because I instinctively knew something awesome was unfolding before me - I just didn't know what. Besides - even if I didn't 'get' the cool soundscapes sexy Jimi was laying down - there was always that awesome 'Nude Women' cover to gawk at (didn't understand that either but I was getting there). Well here we are again with another Reissue - but is "Electric Ladyland" really the masterpiece they all say it is? Damn right man – and relistening to this meticulous Remaster – you're only going to love and appreciate it even more. Here are the Slight Returns...

UK released March 2010 – "Electric Ladyland" by THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE on Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy 88697 62164 2 (Barcode 886976216429) is a CD and DVD in a three-way card digipak and breaks down as follows:

CD (75:27 minutes):
1. ...And The Gods Made Love [Side 1]
2. Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
3. Crosstown Traffic
4. Voodoo Chile
5. Little Miss Strange [Side 2]
6. Long Hot Summer Night
7. Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)
8. Gypsy Eyes
9. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
10. Rainy Day, Dream Away [Side 3]
11. 1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
12. Moon, Turn The Tides...gently gently away
13. Still Raining, Still Dreaming [Side 4]
14. House Burning Down
15. All Along The Watchtower
16. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Tracks 1 to 16 are the double-album "Electric Ladyland" – released October 1968 in Stereo in the USA on Reprise 2RS 6307 and November 1968 in the UK on Track Records 613008/9.

CD - the artwork was famously different for both countries – the UK produced the naughty 'nude ladies' gatefold sleeve on the outside as opposed to the side-profile face shot of the US album (which is what’s been used for every CD reissue ever since). The only CD to have the UK artwork is one that was produced in the early days of the format in a clunky double jewel case (probably pressed in Germany around the mid 80s) – and the only acknowledgement of that artwork is a two-page spread on Pages 24 and 25 of the booklet that shows an Alternate shot of all the women who took part in the photo-shoot. The gorgeous 36-page booklet that accompanies this digipak edition has pages of reminiscences from Derek Taylor (quotes from those who were there) as well as repros of handwritten notes on Newhouse Hotel paper by Jimi on the track runs and how he wanted the credits on the sleeve to look. It also includes a facsimile of his ‘Letter To A Room Full Of Mirrors’ and loads of fantastic colour photos of The Experience Live, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell (including the cover shot Linda McCartney). Although the British inner gatefold isn’t reproduced here (which seems odd – the American inners are all over the inner digipak flaps and picture CDs) – you have to say that for such a classic album it’s all very tastefully done and informative at the same time. There's also online content from the Experience Hendrix website available via the CD...

DVD - after the Experience Hendrix Logo appears - the non-regional DVD offers a Menu with a 'Film' broken into four chapters most of which are discussions by Original Producer Eddie Kramer on "Crosstown Traffic", "Gypsy Eyes", "Voodoo Chile" and "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)". The downside is that although it’s hugely entertaining and informative - duration is only 25 minutes or so and you crave more. What you do get is Kramer sat at a mixing desk isolating Jimi’s vocals – talking about the musical connection Steve Winwood and Jack Casady had with Hendrix when they did the Blues jam "Voodoo Chile" (much appreciation all around) and confirmation that Dave Mason of Traffic sings uncredited backing vocals on "Crosstown Traffic". Chas Chandler talks briefly of the crazy way the album was effectively recorded in the studio (too many hangers on and 50 takes of songs so Jimi could get it right – much to the chagrin of both Mitchell and Redding) while that’s followed by live footage and short interviews of old with Noel Redding. The quality of the print is fantastic given the vintage - but as I say - you wish there was more because its over too soon and this double-album deserved twice the input. Subtitles include English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian and None...

The Remasters have been handled by original album Producer EDDIE KRAMER (who also features heavily on the DVD) and Sound Engineer GEORGE MARINO with Supervision by Janie Hendrix (Jimi’s stepsister and CEO of Experience Hendrix which handles his musical legacy) along with Sound Engineer John McDermott whose been involved in quite a few of the Experience Hendrix CD reissues.

Recorded at the Record Plant in New York with Producers Chas Chandler, Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren - the core band was Hendrix on Guitars and Vocals with NOEL REDDING on Bass and MITCH MITCHELL on Drums. Guests included STEVE WINWOOD of The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic on Organ with JACK CASADY of Jefferson Airplane on Bass for the 15-minute Blues jam of "Voodoo Chile" while DAVE MASON of Traffic is confirmed by Producer Eddie Kramer to have sang uncredited backing vocals on "Crosstown Traffic". AL KOOPER plays Piano on "Long Hot Summer Night" while the Jazzy combo of Mike Finnigan (Organ), Freddie Smith (Horns), Larry Faucette (Congas) and Buddy Miles (Drums) played on two tracks – "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming". Excepting "Little Miss Strange" which is a Noel Redding credit - all songs are Hendrix originals except for "All Along The Watchtower" and "Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)" which are Bob Dylan and Earl King cover versions respectively.

The opening one and half minutes of noodle that is "And The Gods Made Love" gives way to a sensual vocal on "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)" – but its when "Crosstown Traffic" kicks in that the hairs on your arms rise. I mean just how cool is this tune – and how uber cool was he – "...the sexiest man that's walked the planet..." as Neneh Cherry says in the booklet – hell yes. You can't help be but blown away – all that noise and all those guitars and all that those off-the-cuff vocals - yet it makes a coherent whole that rocks. "Crosstown Traffic" is only two and half minutes long yet it seems HUGE and other-worldly. Then of course we get the Side 1 monster "Voodoo Chile" - Blues done through the filter of Jimi Hendrix. 15 minutes of Steve Winwood and Jack Casady trading licks on Organ and Bass with Jimi opening up and showing his stunning feel for the genre and his axe. It begins with that lingering organ and feedback and Wow is the only appropriate response...

Noel Redding's poppy contribution "Little Miss Strange" has always seemed 'old' musically compared to what Jimi was doing on the rest of the record – but his edgy guitar contribution brings it into play (I’ve always liked it). The audio on "Long Hot Summer Night" is wicked – hissy for sure in certain places – but the presence is wonderful – swirling around your speakers with life and balls. It's followed by a much-needed boogie and rock out - his kicking version of Earl King's "Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)" and I'm reminded instantly of that other stunning Guitar God Stevie Ray Vaughan who must surely have based a lot of his output on this (that solo sounds fabulous). I cannot be rational about "Gypsy Eyes" – I've adored it for 4-plus decades. It was the first Hendrix 7" single I bought in a now rare UK Picture Sleeve (I've even included it in a screenplay I've written – but that's another hairyman story). The remaster really brings out that amazing phasing of the guitars. "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" shows his songwriting expanding – that strange mix he settled on where the sound seems from another world – his vocals and those treated backing voices – brilliant.

Bolstered by the Horns of Freddie Smith, the Organ of Mike Finnigan and the backbeat drums of Buddy Miles – the Jazz-Blues of "Rainy Day, Dream Away" is not what you expect and yet the song fits here so perfectly. We then get the second album monster – the near 14-minute trippy genius of "1983..." According to original producer Eddie Kramer Jimi wanted to stretch out musically and sonically – so he tries effects on everything – guitars and voices – structure – it ends up feeling almost Prog Rock before such a thing even existed. There's a lot of hiss in certain parts of it for sure – but the Audio on those Drums and Bass is awesome throughout – a great job done in the transfer. Perhaps everybody's fave boogie on the album “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” remains amazing to me and of course "All Along The Watchtower" redefined into something altogether more potent – but even those are kicked in the proverbial nuts by the sheer wallpo of the album finisher "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" – quite probably the most unlikely Number 1 single in the entire Universe. This is surely his most magnificent moment and one that still sends chills up my arms a full 45 years after the event.

"...Stand up next to a mountain...and chop it down with the side of my hand..." 

And didn’t he just...WOW!

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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