Jimi Hendrix, over the course of his professional career, released a grand total of only three full-length studio recordings – Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. By today’s standards, releasing three albums is not that much of an accomplishment for any music act, yet somehow, Hendrix has remained one of the single most influential figures in the music industry to this date. That is, again, despite having only released three full-length studio recordings. It is an interesting concept. He is considered so influential because of the creativity exhibited in the songs that he composed, both musically and lyrically. That third noted album is one of the most powerful exhibitions of Hendrix’s creative range and his talent, and early this month, the music industry celebrated the 50th anniversary of its original release, with a special re-issue of that record. Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition was released Nov. 9 via Sony Legacy and Experience Hendrix, LLC. The four-disc collection is a wonderful new presentation of the landmark album. That is due in no small part to its overall primary content, which will be discussed shortly. The book in which that content is contained is just as important to the set’s presentation as the primary content. It will be discussed a little later. The set’s average price point rounds out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later. Each item is important in its own right to the whole of Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Edition. All things considered, they make this new deep dive into Hendrix’s groundbreaking final album one of the year’s top new album re-issues, if not the year’s best.
Sony Legacy and Experience Hendrix LLC’s recently released 50th anniversary edition of Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 album Electric Ladyland is one of this year’s best new album re-issues, if not the single best in that category. That is proven in part through the primary content included in the new “box set” of sorts. The primary content features not only the original Electric Ladyland album on a single disc, but also a full disc of demos that Hendrix recorded during the Electric Ladyland sessions, a full recording of Hendrix and his band mates at the time – Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell – performing live at the Hollywood Bowl and a Blu-ray documentary that focuses on the creation of Electric Ladyland. In other words, the primary content is spread across three CDs and one Blu-ray disc. The documentary, At Last…The Beginning, originally aired in 1997 as part of the Classic Albums TV series, so its presentation here is not the first time that it has ever been available in any format. As a matter of fact, Experience Hendrix, LLC last released the rock doc on DVD in 2008. It features interviews with Buddy Miles, Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, Eddie Kramer and others involved in Electric Ladyland’s creation that offer plenty of insight and entertainment. The entertainment includes anecdotes from Miles about his enjoyment of playing shuffles against Hendrix’s guitar riffs, one session keyboardist’s laughing story of having never been paid for his session work with Hendrix, and Redding’s own discussions about Hendrix’s creativity with each song. The more insightful discussions feature talks on the eventual breakdown in the band over the course of the album’s recording, – including Hendrix allegedly coming in hours late for a recording session – the album’s various arrangements and how they came to be, and Hendrix’s own role in the album’s creation. Overall, the documentary is something of an audio-visual presentation of the history presented in the set’s companion liner notes. It even features many of the pictures that are featured in the set’s book. To that end, it makes the documentary that much more important in its own right, as part of the set’s primary content. Of course, the doc is only one part of what makes the set’s primary content so important. The set’s live recording adds even more enjoyment to the set’s whole.
The live recording, Live at the Hollywood Bowl presents Hendrix and his fellow musicians performing live at the noted venue on September 14, 1968, only a month before Electric Ladyland’s initial release. Interestingly enough, while the performance was recorded only weeks ahead of the album’s release, the concert pulled heavily from The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut 1967 album Are You Experienced. Save for ‘Little Wing,’ which was included in 1968’s Axis: Bold As Love and ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return),’ which is included in Electric Ladyland, the rest of the 11-song performance’s set list comes from Are You Experienced. This is important to note as one would have thought the being so close to Electric Ladyland’s release, the group would have focused more attention on that album, yet for whatever reason, chose not to go that route. That is not a bad thing, but rather just noted. The band’s performance of the set list makes for its own enjoyment, as the whole thing feels so organic. Even as Hendrix notes near the performance’s end the concerns about the powers that be wanting to turn off the power, he and his band mates never show any sense of stress or concern. It is just one of so many moments that shows that organic feel. Between the group’s casual nature as it preps for each song, its interactions with the audience between the songs and the very performance of the songs, the whole thing feels so natural. This is all so important to note in that performances from so many of today’s big name acts do not have that organic feel, as much as acts – regardless of genre – try to make their performances feel. Keeping this in mind, the fully organic, natural feel of the band’s performance here makes the recording so enjoyable.
On another level, the live recording is important to discuss because of its audio mix. Listeners will note in taking in the recording that it sounds just as organic as it feels. The scratchy, static-filled sound from the concert’s original recording is on full display here. It adds so much pleasure to the concert experience. In an age in which everything is digital, this sound shows that it is fully possible to transfer classic recordings to CD without any loss in the process. It proves that as much as consumers today want to move toward all things digital, there is still very much a place for physical media, and a justified place for it at that. When this is considered along with the positives of the performance – and the fact that this recording apparently has previously been unreleased — it becomes clear why Live at the Hollywood Bowl is an important addition to Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’s whole. It still is not the last important addition to the set’s presentation. The audio companion to At Last: The Beginning is yet another important part of the set’s primary content to discuss.
The 20-song collection gives audiences a glimpse into the creative process for the Electric Ladyland sessions, and into Hendrix’s own mindset as he composed the album’s songs. Early on in the collection, audiences get an interesting variance in the ‘Angel’ demo. The demo for this song was played either on bass or in a rather low key on guitar. By comparison, the final album cut features more depth with its added effects and bluesy riffs. While maybe not a stark difference, it is still a notable difference. Hendrix’s demo of ‘Hear My Train ‘A Comin’’ is another interesting moment from At Last…The Beginning. While it sounds dramatically different from the final cut – and is very short here at just shy of 90 seconds – the pure approach here with just Jimi and his guitar conjures thoughts of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt just to name a couple equally well-known blues names. The emotion in Hendrix’s voice in the demo for ‘My Friend’ is yet another example of what makes this collection of demos and rarities such a welcome addition to the Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. It is hardly the last example of the compilation’s importance, too. Between this demo, the others noted here and the rest of the collection’s featured works, the whole of the disc is sure to offer its own share of entertainment for listeners. That includes the most devoted audiences and the most novice fans. When its importance is considered alongside the importance of the rest of the noted primary content, it becomes wholly clear and without doubt that the extensive amount and type of material that makes up the set’s primary content makes for more than enough for audiences to appreciate here. Of course as important and impressive as the set’s primary content is to the set’s whole is, that content is not the only content worth noting. The secondary content is just as important to examine as the set’s primary content.
The secondary content presented in Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is composed mainly of the photos and liner notes inside the set’s “book.” The liner notes and pictures take audiences even deeper into the set than the musical content. A prime example of that depth is the revelation that the cover art proposed by Hendrix’s label at the time – Reprise Records – featured a bevy of completely nude females. That cover, by the way, is featured in a picture in the book, so it is not proper for young eyes, as a warning for audiences. The liner notes reveal that Hendrix was none too pleased with that proposal, especially after having proposed a far more tame cover, which is in fact presented in this release. Another interesting revelation produed through the liner notes is that Hendrix did not want to take control of the album’s recording sessions, but ended up largely taking control, albeit very reluctantly. Yet another intriguing revelation made through the set’s liner notes is that Hendrix was apparently a very devout fan of Bob Dylan, and that Dylan in fact appreciated Hendrix’s take of Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ so much that he actually went on to use that version in so many of his own live shows. That is a true sign of respect between two legendary musicians.
As if the revelations produced in the primary liner notes are not enough for audiences, there are also liner notes for many of the demos featured in the audio-only presentation of At Last…The Beginning. Audiences learn through those notes that Hendrix was forced to take the lead in the sessions for ‘Little Miss Strange’ due to scheduling conflicts with producer Chas Chandler. That revelation leads to even more interesting related discussions. The notes on ‘Long Hot Summer Night (Take 14)’ provide their own interest as there is a discussion on the connection between Hendrix and cosmetics giant Revlon. Audiences will be left here to find out more about that connection for themselves. When that interesting story is considered along with the other equally interesting information shared in the liner notes (both those discussed and not discussed here), the whole of that information creates even more content for audiences to appreciate. When it is collectively considered alongside the primary content already discussed here, the whole of that is more than enough reason for audiences to appreciate in this set. Considering all of this, the set’s average price point proves to be money well-spent.
The average price point for Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition comes to $52.50, using prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. The release is listed at Best Buy, however, its listing does not list specifically if the item listed is the CD Deluxe Edition or the vinyl deluxe edition. The set’s mode price (most commonly listed price) is $49.19, which is the price listed at Amazon, Target and Walmart. Keeping both of those prices in mind, both are relatively affordable considering the amount of content presented throughout the set. Even when shipping and handling are included into the costs, audiences will agree that neither price is overly expensive. When one takes this into consideration along with the noted content, the whole of this set proves a welcome addition to any Hendrix fan’s library. As noted earlier, when one considers all of the elements together, they prove Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition one of the year’s top new music re-issues, if not the year’s best so far.
Sony Legacy’s recently released Jimi Hendrix recording Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is a welcome addition to any Hendrix fan’s library. That is due in no small part to the set’s extensive primary content, which includes the original pressing of the groundbreaking record, a full collection of the album’s demos and outtakes, a previously released documentary focusing on the album’s creation and a full live performance from 1968 at the Hollywood Bowl. The secondary content presented inside the set’s companion “book” adds eve more entertainment and insight for audiences to appreciate. When all of the noted content is considered along with the set’s average (and mode) price, the whole presentation proves to be money well-spent. Keeping everything in mind, the re-issue in whole proves to be not only a welcome addition to any Hendrix fan’s library, but also one of the year’s top new music re-issues, if not its bet so far. Electric Ladyland: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is available now. More information on this and other Jimi Hendrix releases is available online now at:
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