(Written by Mateo Muro)
This week in musical history provides a milestone for my favorite guitar album. On November 16, 1968, the album Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience went number one in the US. Released exactly a month earlier, the album was met with varying reviews. Today, however, it is considered the highest point for one of music history’s most ambitious artists.
The album is filled with almost any type of noise you can pull out of a guitar. There were exciting riffs on “Crosstown Traffic” and wild wah-wah exercises in “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” No genre was too far reaching for Jimi Hendrix. The sci-fi psychedellia of “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” was unlike anything else at the time but right after that, on “Rainy Day, Dream Away” Jimi jams out and leads a nightclub jazz band as if he had been playing with them for years.
Guest artists aren’t that rare on the album and that is because of Jimi’s social nature. After a couple of sessions, the band would go out to the New York night club scene and get to know the musicians if not have impromptu jam sessions on stage. Jimi would then invite the musicians and other friends they would meet that night back to Record Plants, the studio where most of the album was recorded. The sessions would become full on parties and this led to frustration from the band’s manager, Chas Chandler, and bassist, Noel Redding. The bassist was so fed up he missed half of the sessions, leaving Jimi to dub the other half of the bass work. On the track “Voodoo Chile,” however, it is actually Jack Cassidy of Jefferson Airplane playing bass, having jammed with the band and Traffic’s Steve Winwood on organ while the tapes were rolling.
Plenty of today’s alternative guitar heroes like Dave Grohl, Johnny Marr, and Matt Bellamay, among other non-guitarist musicians list Jimi Hendrix as an influence, but there is a bigger relevance to today’s music. After the album was recorded, Jimi Hendrix and manager Michael Jeffrey needed another source of income to cover all the extravagant costs. They decided to open up a recording studio in New York. Though Jimi Hendrix only recorded there for a couple of weeks before he died at the age of 27 in 1970, other great albums have been recorded in this famous studio, including the Clash’s Combat Rock, Weezer’s first two albums, and Angles by the Strokes. The innovative studio is an appropriate testament to the artistry and passion.