'Electric Ladyland' was released on this day (October 16th) in 1968.
It being Black History Month in the UK, it feels only appropriate to celebrate one of the most iconic rock albums of all time, brought to us by one of the greatest black musicians in history. Electric Ladyland was the third and final album released by Jimi Hendrix before his death in 1970, and it makes for the perfect legacy to his short but distinguished music career.
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Released by Reprise Records and Track Records, Electric Ladyland was the only album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience to be produced by Hendrix himself; a fact that must've been all the more beneficial when you consider that the album managed to reach number one in the US charts and stay there for two weeks.
On the other hand, recording the album wasn't exactly the smoothest of projects. Hendrix's infamous perfectionism, vocal insecurities and enjoyment of having all his friends in the studio with him while he was working made for a chaotic recording environment, and it's no wonder that recording was so erratic over the two-year period he was working on it. Eventually co-producer Chas Chandler gave up altogether, having become increasingly frustrated over the multiple takes he was forced to record for Hendrix's benefit.
The song Gypsy Eyes may be one hell of a tune, but it took a whopping 50 tries before Hendrix was happy with it. The best-selling single from the record though was, of course, the unforgettable cover of Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower which turned out to be quite the masterpiece. Other memorable tracks was the long, bluesy epic Voodoo Chile and its follow-up Voodoo Child (Slight Return).
Naturally, even those tracks were fraught with resentment. Bass player Noel Redding dropped out halfway through All Along the Watchtower, and his parts were later redone by Hendrix himself and Dave Mason. Plus, the endless overdubbing nearly drove studio mixers round the bend, but you can't fault what came out of the gruelling sessions in the end.
Electric Ladyland wasn't much appreciated by critics at the time, unfortunately, but that's the beauty of hindsight. While critics then blasted the album's lack of cohesion and unstructured songs (not to mention the heavy guitar for which Hendrix was a little ahead of his time), today music buffs look at it as an ambitious double-album and an important piece of the psychedelic rock era. Indeed, it was a groundbreaking record which would go on to influence hundreds of artists in the decades to follow.
You can read about more iconic black artists in our Black History Month feature!