Electric Ladyland is the third and final studio album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in October 1968 by Track Records/Polydor, and Reprise Records in North America. The double album was the only record from the band produced by Jimi Hendrix. By mid-November, it had charted at number one in the United States, where it spent two weeks at the top spot. Electric Ladyland was the Experience's most commercially successful release and their only number one album. It peaked at number six in the UK, where it spent 12 weeks on the chart.
Electric Ladyland included a cover of the Bob Dylan song, "All Along the Watchtower", which became the Experience's highest-selling single and their only top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 20; the single reached number five in the UK. Although the album confounded critics in 1968, it has since been viewed as Hendrix's best work and one of the greatest rock records of all time. Electric Ladyland has been featured on many greatest-album lists, including Q magazine's 2003 list of the 100 greatest albums and Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, on which it was ranked 54th.
Recording sessions for the Jimi Hendrix Experience's third and final studio album, Electric Ladyland, began at the newly opened Record Plant Studios, with Chas Chandler as producer and engineers Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren. As recording progressed, Chandler became increasingly frustrated with Hendrix's perfectionism and his demands for repeated takes. Hendrix allowed numerous friends and guests to join them in the studio, which contributed to a chaotic and crowded environment in the control room and led Chandler to sever his professional relationship with Hendrix. Redding later recalled: "There were tons of people in the studio; you couldn't move. It was a party, not a session." Redding, who had formed his own band in mid-1968, Fat Mattress, found it increasingly difficult to fulfill his commitments with the Experience, so Hendrix played many of the bass parts on Electric Ladyland. The album's cover stated that it was "produced and directed by Jimi Hendrix". The double LP was the only Experience album to be mixed entirely in stereo.
During the Electric Ladyland recording sessions, Hendrix began experimenting with other combinations of musicians, including Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady and Traffic's Steve Winwood, who played bass and organ respectively on the fifteen-minute slow-blues jam, "Voodoo Chile". During the album's production, Hendrix appeared at an impromptu jam with B.B. King, Al Kooper, and Elvin Bishop. Electric Ladyland was released in October 1968, and by mid-November it had reached number one in the US, spending two weeks at the top spot. The double LP was the Experience's most commercially successful release and their only number one album. It peaked at number six in the UK, spending 12 weeks on the chart.
Hendrix's studio perfectionism was legendary – he and Mitch Mitchell recorded well over 50 takes of "Gypsy Eyes" over three sessions. Hendrix was generally insecure about his voice and often recorded his vocals hidden behind studio screens. Hendrix sang all the backing vocals himself on the title track and on "Long Hot Summer Night". He was said to be very happy with the vocal results on "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)".
According to music journalist David Stubbs, Electric Ladyland is "undoubtedly a rock album, albeit rock on the point of evolving into something else." Uncut magazine's John Robinson said that its music reconciles the psychedelic pop of Hendrix's earlier recordings with the aggressive funk he would explore on his 1970 album Band of Gypsys. During its recording, Kramer experimented with innovative studio techniques such as backmasking, chorus effect, echo, and flanging, which AllMusic's Cub Koda said recontextualized Hendrix's psychedelic and funk sounds on the album.
Electric Ladyland is a cross-section of Hendrix's wide range of musical talent. It includes examples of several genres and styles of music: the psychedelic "Burning of the Midnight Lamp", a UK single the previous summer (1967), the extended blues jam "Voodoo Chile", the New Orleans-style R&B of Earl King's "Come On", the epic studio production of "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)", the social commentary of "House Burning Down", and the Sixties-era Britpop of Noel Redding's "Little Miss Strange". The album also features an electric reworking of the Bob Dylan classic "All Along the Watchtower", which has been well received by critics as well as by Dylan himself, and also "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", a staple of both radio and guitar repertoire. Rolling Stone's Holly George-Warren praised "Crosstown Traffic" for its hard rock guitar riff.
Electric Ladyland included Hendrix's cover of Bob Dylan's song, "All Along the Watchtower", which became the band's highest-selling single and their only US top 40 hit, peaking at number 20; the single reached number five in the UK. The album also included one of Hendrix's most prominent uses of a wah-wah pedal, in the song "Burning of the Midnight Lamp", which reached number 18 in the UK charts.
Hendrix had written to Reprise describing what he wanted for the cover art, but was mostly ignored. He expressly asked for a color photo by Linda Eastman of the group sitting with children on a sculpture from Alice in Wonderland in Central Park, and drew a picture of it for reference. The company instead used a blurred red and yellow photo of his head while performing at Saville Theatre, taken by Karl Ferris. Track Records used its art department, which produced a cover image by photographer David Montgomery, who also shot the inside cover portrait of Hendrix, depicting nineteen nude women lounging in front of a black background. Hendrix expressed displeasure and embarrassment with this "naked lady" cover, much as he was displeased with the Axis: Bold as Love cover which he found disrespectful. The cover was banned by several record dealers as "pornographic", while others sold it with the gatefold cover turned inside out.
Electric Ladyland was released in the US on October 16, 1968. It was a "hit psychedelic album", Richie Unterberger later wrote, and by mid-November, it had reached number one in the US, spending two weeks atop the pop charts. The double LP was the Experience's most commercially successful release and Hendrix's only number one album. In the UK, it peaked at number six and charted for 12 weeks.
Electric Ladyland confounded contemporary critics; reviewers praised some of its songs but felt the album lacked structure and sounded too dense. Melody Maker called it "mixed-up and muddled", with the exception of "All Along the Watchtower", which the magazine called a masterpiece. In a negative review for Rolling Stone, Tony Glover preferred the less difficult "Little Miss Strange" to songs such as "Voodoo Chile" and "1983", which he said were marred by reactively harsh playing. Robert Christgau was more enthusiastic, naming it the fifth best album of 1968 in his ballot for Jazz & Pop magazine's critics poll.
Over time, Electric Ladyland's critical standing improved significantly, often being viewed as Hendrix's best work. According to author Michael Heatley, "most critics agree" that the album was "the fullest realization of Jimi's far-reaching ambitions"; Guitar World editor Noe Goldwasser called it his greatest work. The record was also deemed an essential hard rock album in Tom Larson's 2004 book History of Rock and Roll, and Clash reviewer Robin Murray viewed it as a "true classic of the psychedelic rock era". In a retrospective review for Blender, Christgau wrote that it was the definitive work of psychedelic music, describing the record as "an aural utopia that accommodates both ingrained conflict and sweet, vague spiritual yearnings, held together by a master musician". In Charlotte Greig's opinion, much like Are You Experienced, Electric Ladyland was "groundbreaking, introducing audiences to a style of psychedelic rock rooted in the blues".
Electric Ladyland has been featured on many greatest album lists, including a number 10 ranking on Classic Rock magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever, and number 37 on The Times' 100 Best Albums of All Time. Music journalist and author Peter Doggett argued that it is very likely the greatest rock album of all time because of its exceptional concept, artful melodies, experimentation, and skilled musicianship, which he felt remains unparalleled by any other rock artist. In 2003, Q magazine included it on its list of the 100 greatest albums ever, while Rolling Stone ranked it 54th on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
All songs written by Jimi Hendrix, except where noted.
As was common with multi-LP albums, sides one and four were pressed back to back on the same platter, likewise sides two and three. This was called auto-coupling or automatic sequence and was intended to make it easier to play through the entire album in sequence on automatic record-changers. In this case it has led to some CD releases of Electric Ladyland that have the sides in the incorrect one-four-two-three order. The cassette tape version altered the running order to keep both sides of the tape as equal as possible, a standard practice.
Credits taken from the 1993 MCA compact disc booklet.Jimi Hendrix – lead vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, comb and tissue paper kazoo, electric harpsichord, bass on "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)", "Long Hot Summer Night", "Gypsy Eyes", "1983", "House Burning Down", and "All Along the Watchtower"
Noel Redding – backing vocals, bass on "Crosstown Traffic", "Little Miss Strange", "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)", "Burning of the Midnight Lamp", and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", acoustic guitar and lead vocals on "Little Miss Strange"
Mitch Mitchell – backing vocals, drums (except on "Rainy Day Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming"), percussion, lead vocals on "Little Miss Strange"
Jack Casady – bass on "Voodoo Chile"
Brian Jones – percussion on "All Along the Watchtower"
Al Kooper – piano on "Long Hot Summer Night"
Dave Mason – twelve-string guitar on "All Along the Watchtower", backing vocals on "Crosstown Traffic"
The Sweet Inspirations – backing vocals on "Burning of the Midnight Lamp"
Steve Winwood – Hammond organ on "Voodoo Chile"
Chris Wood – flute on "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)"
on "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming":Larry Faucette – congas
Mike Finnigan – organ
Buddy Miles – drums
Freddie Smith – tenor saxophone
Producer – Jimi Hendrix
Engineers – Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren
Mixed by Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Kramer, and Gary Kellgren
Arranged by Jimi Hendrix
US cover liner note by Jimi Hendrix
US cover design – Karl Ferris
US cover inside photos – Linda Eastman and David Sygall
US art direction – Ed Thrasher
UK cover design – David King, Rob O'Connor
UK cover inside photos – David Montgomery
First CD remaster by Lee Herschberg (Reprise 6307-2)
Second CD remaster by Alan Douglas – Remastering by Joe Gastwirt, Liner notes by Michael Fairchild
Third CD remaster by Experience Hendrix – Remastering by Eddie Kramer and George Marino, Art direction by Vartan, Liner notes by Jeff Leve, Essay by Derek Taylor