The 1968 release of Electric Ladyland….
No review of the year 1968 could be complete without a serious study of the music which, in large parts, acted as a soundtrack to the events which were dominating global news and continues to capture the hearts and minds fifty years later.
Released in America in October 1968, Electric Ladyland was the third album released by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Recorded in both London and New York between the two summers of ’67 and ’68 it was a sublime double album featuring some of the band’s finest material. Will there ever be a better cover version than their take on Bob Dylan’s 1967 All Along the Watchtower? or a guitar intro so unique as the powerhouse track Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)?
This is an album of multiple musical genres, it was the first indicator of where Hendrix was heading artistically as he drew on influences from blues to jazz, pop, funk and psychedelic to create stunning songs from the long, blues jam of Voodoo Chile to the funk/pop of Crosstown Traffic. But it was also an album which was slow to impress the critics, whilst the hit songs appealed, others, such as 1983 and Little Miss Strange missed the mark until the passage of time placed the album in its rightful place as one of the greatest albums of the decade.
If the music didn’t attract enough attention then the album cover most certainly did. Having been upset by the cover of his second album, Axis: Bold as Love (1967) he sent his idea for Electric Ladyland to the Reprise record company with the explicit request that the cover be shot by Linda Eastman (later McCartney) and feature the band sitting with children in Central Park beside a sculpture from the Alice in Wonderland book. The record label went instead with the image above take from one of his London concerts whilst Track Records used photographer David Montgomery for their initial UK release with a photograph of nineteen nude women. Hendrix was not amused, he expressed embarrassment at the cover as some retailers banned the record whilst others turned the gatefold inside out.
For me, the album was one of the finest releases of 1968, listen to Burning of the Midnight Lamp or the wonderful Gypsy Eyes for a contrast to the searing guitar of Voodoo Chile. It was a landmark album, Hendrix was at the top of his game and All Along the Watchtower is testament to his genius, he was truly one of a kind and this album cemented his place in rock legend.