Before finding fame in 1967 in Britain, Jimi had recorded as a band member with the likes of Little Richard, The Isley Brothers and various lesser known artists (see “Before Fame” section). The recordings of that pre-Experience period are really only of interest to the hard-core collector.
So The Jimi Hendrix Record Guide begins with the artist’s own cherished works.
In the three and a half years or so in which Jimi recorded in his own right, he personally put out only these three albums (his fourth release “Band Of Gypsys” was an obligation to settle a lawsuit – see bottom of page). Any collection of Hendrix albums should begin here. These classic albums have been re-released many times over the years and we are already at the third generation of Compact Discs, after many remasterings.
Note that originally, the American vinyl versions of these albums had better sound than the European pressings, and remain the reference in terms of sound quality, even ahead the CDs.
Also, check out the site Jimi Hendrix Vinyl for an in-depth analysis of vinyl pressings through the years.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY:
For younger readers, a bit of history is perhaps needed here, to understand the impact that The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s music had at the time (1966-1967).
One of the best illustrations of Hendrix’s impact was recounted by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees who heard the Jimi’s first single Hey Joe for the first time, in the company of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The music was amazing he said, but even more impressive was the sight of The Beatles with their jaws dropped in awe.
Also, how about the time when Jimi’s new manager Chas Chandler persuaded The Cream to let the then unknown Jimi join them on stage at the end of one of their London concerts in the fall of 1966? Jimi just ripped into Killing Floor with Bruce and Baker trying to keep up. Clapton couldn’t believe his ears and simply put his guitar down and stood aside, to watch in amazement.
At that point, in late 1966, rock music was just beginning to stretch out of the “guys in suits” era. The undisputed kings of pop, The Beatles, had developed a more sophisticated and complex technique, showcased on the album “Revolver” of August 1966. The Stones (who had never been into suits) had all but deserted their beloved blues and rock’n’roll in pursuit of the “fab four” to become recognised as songwriters in their own right. Other British bands like The Who, Small Faces, Kinks and Yardbirds were also becoming more adventurous in their writing and arrangements. However nothing had prepared Britain for the revolution that was The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with their brilliant fusion of rock, R&B, blues and psychedelic pop. “Jimi destroyed everybody. Beatles, Stones, everyone came to see him and just freaked out because he was such an original“ – Eddie Kramer
This was how Jimi’s arrival in London was described in The NME Book Of Rock (1973): “Hendrix had unbeleivable impact with amazingly powerful psychedelic blues, the heaviest rock ever heard at that time, a supremely cool vocal drawl, dope-and-Dylan-orientated lyrics, the acid dandyism of his clothes, and the stirring element of black sexual fantasy.” Evidently, it was not only his guitar playing that impressed !
The Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who along with other British stars had discovered the unknown Hendrix in New York clubs, had perfect timing in persuading him to go to back to England with him, where blues-based rock was about to make a big comeback (since the early days of the Stones, Them, Animals and Yardbirds). After his stint with blues ace John Mayall, the already elected “God” of the electric guitar Eric Clapton, had just formed the blues/pop/rock outfit Cream, who were in a way the blueprint for the Experience (Jimi was interested in Clapton’s playing even before he went to Britain). In fact Jimi’s arrival in London at the end of 1966 did undermine everything that poor old Cream set out to do. Also, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page (who was a session musician at that stage) and any other top musician of the day, whatever their instrument, froze in awe on seeing or hearing Jimi for the first time.
No other guitarist had ever seemed quite so relaxed and at one with their instrument as Jimi. He brought to rock a previously unseen theatricality, using all the attention grabbing gimmicks he could think of. On stage he would play his guitar behind his head, behind his back, between his legs, with his teeth, with one hand or while rolling on the floor. He would drag his guitar across the mike-stand, thrust it or rub it with his groin into the amplifiers and later, to take the things to the limit, he would then smash it to pieces or set fire to it, in a mock love-death ritual. The explicit sexuality of his act was completely unheard of in rock, and even more so from a black artist. Elvis’s hips had caused a scandal in fifties America and Jagger’s gesticulating raised a few eyebrows but here was Hendrix rubbing the neck of his guitar up and down like a giant phallus while flicking his tongue at girls in the audience, then ultimately going down on the floor, to simulate the sexual act ! All of this in fact rather overshadowed his revolutionary musicianship. The review of the very first Experience concert (Evreux, France Oct.13, 1966) went something like this: “…a singing guitarist with bushy hair. A bad mixture of James Brown and Chuck Berry who did contorsions for a good quarter of an hour on stage sometimes playing the guitar with his teeth“. The set list that night was: In The Midnight Hour, Have Mercy, Land Of A Thousand Dances, Everyone Needs Someone To Love, Respect, Johnny B.Goode (don’t look for a bootleg, no tape exists, unless Chas stashed it somewhere !).
As well as Clapton and Jeff Beck, there were other great guitar players in England in 1966. Pete Townshend of The Who, Stevie Marriott of The Small Faces and Dave Davis of The Kinks had all shown off some great power chord rock and subtle rhythmic patterns. In fact Townsend was one of, if not the first, to use feedback to add dynamics to his playing (Eddie Phillips of The Creation deserves some credit too). The Small Faces also put out some great pioneering hard rock on their albums and B-Sides in 1965/66 and some wild effects even appeared on their 1965 hit “Watcha Gonna Do About It” which, as John Cale later confessed, had greatly influenced him and New Yorker Lou Reed, in their crafting of the sonic assault that was the Velvet Underground (at the same time as Jimi’s emergence)*. One must not forget also, the even earlier contribution of the American rocker Link Wray, to noisy guitar. To trace things even further back, perhaps it was Muddy Water’s amplified Chicago blues which set things off. He was obviously a great influence on Jimi, as were other blues greats Elmore James, Lightnin Hopkins, John Lee Hooker or the very innovative Johnny Guitar Watson.
*According to Bruno Blum, in his biography of Lou Reed titled “Electric Dandy”, Jimi attended a Velvet Underground performance in New York in 1966 ! If true John Cale and Lou Reed’s feedback drenched experimentations would have obviously been a great influence on Jimi’s future guitar playing. I asked Blum where he got the information from and all he could say was that somebody told him. So unfortunately, it’s only hearsay.
Gradually, Clapton and Jeff Beck (who had both found fame with The Yardbirds) had brought more dexterity and controlled distortion to electric guitar playing. Session man Jimmy Page (who would soon join The Yardbirds) had also made his mark and built up an admirable reputation thanks to his uncredited session guitar work on a host of hit songs for numerous artists. However, before Hendrix, the instrument had not really soared as such. Some aspects of Jimi’s playing achieved a depth of expression that was previously the attribute of sax or harmonica players. Listen to Little Walter’s amplified harmonica, it’s pure Hendrix before Hendrix.
When Jimi played live, his instrument was not just his guitar, but the whole sound system. He used all the raw, jacked-up energy of his amps and speakers, integrating the distortion and feedback into his music, to create a whole whirlwind of sound, giving his playing an orchestral feel. Jimi had been lucky to meet the inventor Roger Mayer who’s effects pedals for electric guitar greatly contributed to the creation of the Hendrix sound. To add to this, Jimi’s solo playing had a depth and sophistication which could be compared with great jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker or particularly John Coltrane. Then he would hit a powerful chord structure, put in an abstract feedback break, then off into a beautifully played soft ballad. His techniques in fact completely redefined the whole approach to the instrument.
Jimi wouldn’t have made it on guitar playing alone of course . His musicianship might have left even jazz musicians gob-smacked, but then he could also pen a neat little Top Ten hit. He wrote superb rock songs and, even if it wasn’t really acknowledged initially, he was also an excellent singer. Jimi wasn’t too confident about his own vocals but he soon asserted his cool rapping style, which was, like his guitar playing, ahead of it’s time.
What also impressed British audiences was the fact that he was a true black American musician. The rock aristocracy and through them the record buying public, had been in awe of black American artists for years and here was one of them who fused all of what they loved together. He came across as a Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, … all rolled into one, with a little Dylan, Clapton and Townshend thrown in for good measure !
Jimi’s influence on the developing rock scene was enormous. Another ex-Mayall guitarist Peter Green would soon form the successful rootsy blues band Fleetwood Mac and eventually (into 1968/9) came other guitar based bluesy rock combos such as The Jeff Beck Group (with Rod Stewart), Humble Pie (Steve Marriott again), Ten Years After, Free, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Not forgetting that The Stones then made their triumphant return to blues-rock and eventually replacing their faltering ex-leader Brian Jones with a fantastic guitarist – Mick Taylor, another ex-John Mayall musician.
In the USA the whole “hippy” movement was beginning in 1966/7, and in Dylan’s wake came the folky rock/pop bands such as The Byrds* (with David Crosby and Roger McGuin), The Buffalo Springfield (with Niel Young and Steve Stills), Love, Country Joe And The Fish and The Jefferson Airplane. Other bands like The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messanger Service, Big Brother And The Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) and especially The Doors, were also integrating blues into their repertoires (they were all fans of The Stones and The Animals in the first place). Not forgetting that even before all these artists, back in 1965, there had been the The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Blues Project with Al Kooper. Along with Dylan and earlier folk artists, all these musicians played a role in introducing the blues to predominently white audiences who might not have otherwise acknowledged its beauty.
In mid-1967, Jimi’s triumphant return to his homeland similarly inspired the American rock scene and soon came the hard rock or blues artists like Canned Heat, Blue Cheer, The Allman Brothers, Santana, MC5, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Mountain, Steppenwolf, Johnny Winter, …
*The Byrds, Love and the lesser known Leaves had covered Billy Robert”s “Hey Joe” before The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but it was a version by Folk singer Tim Rose that had inspired Jimi.
Here we go,
The Jimi Hendrix Record Guide really begins here, with Jimi’s own releases.
Tracks in purple represent their first appearance on record.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED ♥♥♥♥♥
Released UK May 1967 (Track)
SIDE 1: Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Red House (Version 1), Can You See Me, Love Or Confusion, I Don’t Live Today
SIDE 2: May This Be Love, Fire, 3rd Stone From The Sun, Remember, Are You Experienced
In the UK, before this album was released, the band had released the two classic singles: Hey Joe (written by Billy Roberts) /Stone Free, and Purple Haze/51st Anniversary. At the same time as the album came The Wind Cries Mary / Highway Chile (all included later , along with their respective B-sides, on CD re-releases of this album). – See also “Original Singles” section.
Those singles set the pace for this album which took those initial ideas even further. The tracks here were recorded in late 1966 and early 1967 by The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Jimi on public saxophone, I’m sorry, electric guitar, with the magnificent and jazzy Mitch Mitchell (ex Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames) on drums (he won the toss over Aynsley Dunbar) and guitarist Noel Redding got the job as the bass player.
The album was originally released on the Track label (which belonged to The Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp) and distributed by Polydor in Europe. It was produced by Jimi’s manager Chas Chandler, the ex-Animals bassist and the man who had persuaded Jimi to leave the states in September 1966 to become a star in Europe.
This first album captures the raw excitement of the band and shows great originality in both songwriting and studio techniques. Chandler played a key role in all of this, guiding Jimi in his choice of material, keeping things to the right length and crafting the band’s sound on record with the help of engineers Mike Ross, Dave Siddle and Eddy Kramer (not forgetting the ideas and technical skills of Roger Mayer who assisted Jimi in his exploration of new effects for the guitar and amplification). Eddie Kramer in fact worked with Jimi right to the end (and went on to work with many big names in rock) and today he still pilots the production of all releases for the Hendrix Estate.
Jimi’s formative years in the states had not at all hinted at his phenomenal talents as a writer and complete master of his whole spectrum of sound, as illustrated on this album. Powerful rock songs like Foxy Lady, Fire, Manic Depression, Can You See Me or I Don’t Live Today contrast with the gentler May This Be Love or the spacey rock tracks Love Or Confusion, Are You Experienced and 3rd Stone From The Sun. Jimi also finds time to acknowledge his roots with his classic blues Red House and the R&B Remember.
When this album was finally released in true stereo in the early 70s, Can You See Me (like Red House) remained in mono. When the album later appeared on CD, the stereo version (initially on the U.S. Smash Hits of 1969) was used in its place. This old mono version eventually reappeared in 2010 on the West Coast Seattle Boy box set.
Are You Experienced had great impact on the music scene, not just because of the previously unscaled heights of electric guitar playing, but also because of the inventive studio techniques, the overall sound and more importantly, the high quality of the songwriting. The whole thing slotted-in perfectly with the on-going psychedelic scene and the second British blues boom. The album reached Number Two in the British charts, the top spot being blocked by The Beatles’ unstoppable “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”.
Mono or stereo ?
In the UK in 1967, home stereos were not very widespread and stereo radio didn’t exist, so mono was the mix that received the most attention. Many consider that the mono version of “AYE” is the real thing. It is true that in those days, stereo mixes were often bashed off as a gadget after-thought, although here, Chandler and Kramer made a very good job of theirs. The stereo mixed version wasn’t released in the UK until the early seventies! USA got mono and stereo editions of the US version of “AYE” a little later in 1967 (see Other Albums In Jimi’s Lifetime section).
The now rare mono mix has a more direct punch to it perhaps, but I somehow feel that “psychedelic rock” deserves stereo, to add multi-layered richness. In mono, there are a few tiny differences. On Third Stone From The Sun Jimi mutters “War speak war” which is absent in stereo. On Foxy Lady Jimi’s “Here I come baby…” is missing! Polydor censorship? At the end of Red House, as Jimi says “How’s that one ?”, we hear Chas reply “Great, I think we should put that on …”! Another minor difference, Jimi turning the page in May This Be Love is masked in mono (in Sean Egan’s book about the making of this album, he says that the opening drum roll of that track is absent in stereo, but it is there on all my stereo copies). The mono version of that song is also without the fuzzy “Jimi-Jimi-Jimi…” at the very beginning.*
*I must verify that. I’m not sure if the version with “Jimi-Jimi-Jimi…” appeared only on a French single release.
Here is an in-depth analysis of the Mono and Stereo mixes
> Beware of some European 1970s releases which had “mono enhanced for stereo” (a fake stereo effect, much used at the time).
> From 1997 onwards, the re-releases on CD (and occasional double vinyl) included the first three UK singles and their B-sides as bonus tracks.
> See my “Hendrix: song by song” section for a breakdown of individual songs.
The Experience resembled Cream and the cover here adopts a similar approach to their first album “Fresh Cream” of 1966 – a three man portrait plus psychedelic lettering. In the sixties, photographers exhausted every possibility of shooting a band in a studio. Here, the idea of Jimi taking two English guys under his wings is quite fitting. Jimi appears confident, wise and in command. A rising star. Photographer Bruce Fleming had recommended a view which had more perspective but Track used a blunt head-on shot instead. Also, Fleming had photographed the band against a rich green backdrop but the colour was unfortunately deadened by the print processing, resulting in a rather dull sleeve. You can see Fleming photographing the band at a later session in the “Experience” video (see Film section).
Owing to Jimi’s already galloping success, the initial UK release gambled confidently without the band’s name, which explains that space at the top. However, for the other European editions “Jimi Hendrix” was kept on, in the same psychedelic typeface. – 6/10
Note that this album was not released in the USA at this stage as the band were still unknown. By September however, after they had completed a brief tour of the States (including the important Monterey Pop Festival), a revamped version of “Are You Experienced” was issued using a different sequence and selection of tracks which were chosen by Jimi’s American label Reprise (the label originally created by Frank Sinatra). – see “Other Albums In Jimi’s Lifetime” section.
A look at the UK album chart on July 17, 1967 (from Disc and Music Echo) shows just how conservative the record buying public was at the time (and this was the “Summer Of Love” !):
1. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
2. Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
3. The Sound Of Music – Film Soundtrack
4. More Of The Monkees – The Monkees
5. Fiddler On The Roof – Film Soundtrack
6. Release Me – Engelert Humperdink
7. A Drop Of The Hard Stuff – The Dubliners
8. The Best Of The Beach Boys
9. The Green Green Grass Of Home – Tom Jones
10. This Is James Last – The James Last Orchestra
“Sgt. Peppers” was finally shunted off the top spot by the album “Val Doonican rocks, but gently”! Older Brits will remember him well as a sort of British Andy Williams. Easy listening at it’s most tepid.
Check out Sean Egan’s book:
“Not necessarily stoned but beautiful –
The making of Are You Experienced”
In 1970, this single on France’s Barclay label
featured an alternate stereo mix of May This Be Love
(retitled for the occasion as Waterfall)
with no panning on the guitar solo for example.
AXIS BOLD AS LOVE ♥♥♥♥♥
Released UK December 1967 (UK Track / US Reprise)
SIDE 1: EXP, Up From The Skies, Spanish Castle Magic, Wait Until Tomorrow, Ain’t No Telling, Little Wing, If Six Was Nine
SIDE 2: You’ve Got Me Floating, Castles Made Of Sand, She’s So Fine (Redding), One Rainy Wish, Little Miss Lover, Bold As Love
The follow up – more poetic and with a refined sound. Just great.
Recorded immediately after “Are You Experienced” (from May to November), released in December 1967 and again produced by Chas Chandler. The tone is more subdued here (Up From The Skies, Wait Until Tomorrow, Castles Made Of Sand, Little Wing, One Rainy Wish) with a determined lyrical approach which gave more depth to Jimi’s music. A few tracks may have dated slightly (Ain’t No Tellin’ and Noel’s She’s So Fine) but again this album offers a rich spectrum of musical styles.
Like on “Are You Experienced”, the title track closes the album and it’s a musical tour de force, beginning as a soft ballad and building to a dazzling classical-inspired crescendo of guitar. That track features a superbly confident rock vocal from Jimi. The magnificent If Six Was Nine was later well known for its inclusion in Dennis Hopper’s legendary 1969 film “Easy Rider”. The beautiful Little Wing was to become one of the most covered Hendrix songs (Clapton, Sting, Stevie Ray Vaughan…) and was, with the hard rocking Spanish Castle Magic, a stage favourite of Jimi’s. Noel Redding sings the lead vocal on his own composition She’s So Fine and Mitch plays the role of Jimi’s interviewer on the opening spoof EXP. Guests on the album were reportedly Graham Nash of the Hollies and members of The Move (who had toured with The Experience).
“Are You Experienced” looked impossible to follow, but Jimi succeeded with this beautiful album, again displaying his talents as a master songwriter.
There are no bonus tracks on the CD because no singles of new songs were released around the same time as the original album. In fact no single at all was released in the UK between Burning Of The Midnight Lamp (August 67) and All Along The Watchtower (October 68). In the states however, Up From The Skies/One Rainy Wish had been a March 68 release.
Trivia: On the Axis” mono mix , Castles Made Of Sand has a very slightly longer (and in fact better) intro. Fellow Hendrix fan Luke informs me that there are actually two stereo mixes of Axis. The original stereo mix, found on both the Reprise and Track stereo LPs, has Jimi’s vocal going back and forth in stereo each time he sings “endlessly” on Castles Made of Sand. The stereo remix, found on later LPs and at least some Polydor CDs, doesn’t have this effect, and has a slightly shorter intro. There are other differences as well, but that one is easy to spot. The original “Ultimate Experience” CD uses the alternate mix, while the HDCD reissue uses the original mix.
> Check these forum discussion for more details about the different mixes: Link 1 – Link 2
> The mono mix of “Axis” is/was available on vinyl from Authentic Hendrix (see official site) .
After Peter Blake’s revolutionary cover for The Beatles “Sergent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band”, just about every other band made pains to present their work in similarly rich packaging. “Satanic Majesties Request” (Stones), “Disreali Gears” (Cream), “The Grateful Dead” ,… all followed suit and The Experience were no exception. Here, the designers David King and Roger Law inserted the band’s portraits into a lavish Indian mythological painting with Jimi as the central guru. Jimi had in fact requested/suggested an “Indian” feel for the cover, meaning Native American! Oops. Anyway, this made a great gatefold sleeve and eventual poster and T-Shirt. The original Track inner featured a photo of the band in black and white. The inner of the Reprise edition carried all the lyrics and a small negative line illustration of the band to be found today in the CD booklet. – 10/10
ELECTRIC LADYLAND ♥♥♥♥♥♥ (Yes, six!)
Released September 16 1968 (US-Reprise Records) and October 25, 1968 (Track records UK)
SIDE A: And the Gods Made Love, Have You ever Been To Electric Ladyland, Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile
SIDE B: Little Miss Strange (Redding), Long Hot Summer Night, Come On (Part One) (King), Gypsy Eyes, Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
SIDE C: Rainy Day, Dream Away, 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be), Moon, Turn The Tides Gently Gently, Away
SIDE D: Still Raining, Still Dreaming, House Burning Down, All Along The Watchtower (Dylan)*, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
The original vinyl editions had sides A&D on one disc and sides B&C on the other. Does the current MCA vinyl feature the same configuration ?
* “All Along The Watchtower” had been released as a US single just before the album on September 4, 1968 and on September 18 in the UK.
This is it, the greatest album of “rock” music ever to be released. (Phew!)
I say that, because it is difficult to think of any other album by an artist in that field which comes close to the richness, the scope, and the mastery that runs through this awesome musical experience. We’re not just talking “greatest guitarist” here, it’s important to understand that the man’s music goes far beyond that. This album is also a majestic display of songwriting, arrangement and production.
The album is crammed full of sumptuous works such as the complex Gypsy Eyes, House Burning Down, Long Hot Summer Night and the cool jazzy blues Rainy Day which in it’s reprise “Still Raining .. .” transforms into a devastating rock guitar workout. Note that Jimi’s friend Buddy Miles (the drummer with The Electric Flag, who later played an important role in Jimi’s evolution) plays on those Rainy Day tracks.
The title track is a beautiful soul ballad sounding like Curtis Mayfield, which segues into the tough rock/rap of Crosstown Traffic (a successful single in the nineties thanks to it’s use in a jeans commercial).
To broaden the sound, Jimi brought in Stevie Winwood (Spencer Davis Group/Traffic) and Mike Finnegan on keyboards, Al Kooper on piano, Chris Wood (Traffic) on flute, Freddie Smith on saxophone, Larry Faucette on congas, and Jack Casady of The Jefferson Airplane (who occasionally guested on stage with the band) plays bass on the terrific slow blues Voodoo Chile.
On the unbelievable last track Voodoo Child (Slight Return) Jimi takes the blues to its outer limits. The song seems to capture everything that Jimi was about. It became a Hendrix standard and was a British Number 1 just after his death (surely the most intense piece of music ever to top the singles charts).
On vinyl Side C is 1983…, Jimi’s cosmic “sound painting”, which even the likes of Pink Floyd never managed to equal in my opinion. The band’s fourth UK single Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, of a year earlier, is included on the album which is surprising as, in the sixties, singles were not normally put on UK released albums (it was the US B-side of All Along The Watchtower which had been released a month earlier than this album). This was because Jimi had mentioned in interviews that he wasn’t entirely happy with the sound of the song on the single. In the February 17, 1968 issue of Disc and Music Echo, talking about the third album to come, he told Hugh Nolan “I’d like to do another version of Burning Of The Midnight Lamp as well. I liked that song but I don’t think people really understood it. Maybe they will when we do it on the new L.P.” In the end, Jimi kept the original recording, deciding that a superior mastering and manufacture of Electric Ladyland would give his cherished song the correct aura.
Little Miss Strange is another Noel Redding composition, and there are the brilliant cover versions of Earl King’s Come On – Part One and Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower which was the band’s fifth UK single release at the same time as the album. It features Dave Mason* (Traffic) on acoustic guitar and Brian Jones on percussion. Jimi’s remarkable reading of Watchtower was so good that it became, like with Hey Joe, the definitive version and is generally considered as the best ever cover version of a song (recently voted as such, for example, by the music critics of Britains Daily Telegraph).
In an interview with Douglas J. Noble (for Univibes), Nils Lofgren reckoned that Side D of “Ladyland”, is probably the best side of an album that there has ever been. I think he was right. Nothing else was going on in rock (or jazz) that equalled this level of perfection in 1968 and not a lot, if anything, has matched it since.
Jimi’s relentless quest for perfection in putting all this together took its toll on relations within the band. Chas Chandler soon quit, leaving to Jimi the task of putting together all the endless takes. He made a superb job of it. A rift was also growing between Jimi and Noel who quit the band about eight months later.
* Jimi liked Dave Mason as a musician and when he left Traffic in 1969, the two talked about bringing Mason into the Experience on bass (presumably with Noel on guitar?). As soon as Chandler and Jeffery heard about this plan, it was squashed.
> Jimi plays bass on the title track, All Along The Watchtower, 1983, Long Hot Summer Night, Gypsy Eyes, and House Burning Down.
> Read these interesting comments from fellow Hendrix fan and writer Jacek, about the “Electric Ladyland” phasing techniques.
> A documentary about the making of this album was put out in the Classic Albums series of DVDs. It was updated for the 40th anniversary CD pack and re-appeared 10 years later for the 50th Anniversary box set edition.
> In the Reprise sleeve notes, Jimi dedicates the album to “Bil”, a.k.a. Joy, a girl he had met in Liverpool on April 9th, 1967.
REPRISE: For the American edition, Jimi had wanted to use a simple band portrait (which was eventually used on the back) or a photo by David Sygall and Linda Eastman (future Linda McCartney) of the band surrounded by children on the Central Park statue of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland (photos from that shoot were respectfully installed at the back of the booklet of the present MCA CD edition).
In Atlanta in 1968, Jimi had this to say about the cover “Well, we have this one photo of us sitting on Alice in Wonderland, a bronze statue of it in Central Park, and we got some kids and all. First I wanted to get that beautiful woman, about 6 foot 7 – Veruschka – she’s so sexy you just want to hmmm. Any way, we wanted to get her and have her leading us across the desert, and we have like these chains on us but we couldn’t find a desert ‘cause we was working and we couldn’t get a hold of her ‘cause she was in Rome.”
In the end, Reprise used that fiery enhanced image of Jimi (from a photo by Karl Ferris) which nicely conveys the intensity and abandon of his music – 9/10
TRACK: Towards the end of the sixties in Britain, what was termed “full frontal nudity” was making headlines everywhere, what with “Oh Calcutta” on the West End stage, “Blow Up” and “The Girl On The Motorcycle” in the cinemas and every other “Play For Today” on TV. John and Yoko also caused a scandale in 1968 when they appeared naked on the cover of their avant garde (unlistenable) “Two Virgins” album. Track commissioned David King again to design the cover of The Experience’s third album with David Montgomery as photographer. What they came up with was an imaginary portrayal of Jimi’s harem of electric ladies. Two ladies hold images of their keeper (another holds a copy of “Axis”). The disposition of the girls is perfect page layout and the grainy wide angle image gives the whole thing a rather sleazy and subversive atmosphere. Some record shops refused to display the album, so it was put out in a brown wrapper (“Two Virgins” had received the same treatment). Jimi wasn’t all that keen on the UK sleeve but he did say (in an interview with John King in January 1969) “I didn’t know a thing about this sleeve. Still, you know me, I dug it anyway”.
The inner sleeve featured a superb colour portrait of Jimi swathed in plumes of smoke* plus two old black and white portraits of Mitch and Noel (from the same series as those used for the “Axis” inner). See “Alternate sleeves”section – 10/10
*Another frame of Jimi from the shoot for the inner sleeve was used more recently for the cover of the MCA compilation “Experience Hendrix” – see Compilations section.
The European Track sleeve which Jimi had nothing to do with. .
The Central Park photo (or one of them) that Jimi suggested for the front or back cover of “Electric Ladyland”.
A photo from the session eventually appeared on the back of the MCA CD booklet and the 40th anniversary deluxe edition of “Ladyland” uses this photo for the cover of the Digipack! The 50th anniversary edition, featured the photo on the front cover of the book.
The group photo that Jimi also suggested for the front cover which ended up on the back of the original US Reprise L.P.
In the UK, to get round the problem of the controversial sleeve and to make the music more affordable for some,
“Electric Ladyland” was re-released in 1969 split onto two single albums with individual covers:
ELECTRIC LADYLAND Part 1
Released 1969 (Track)
SIDE 1: Still Raining, Still Dreaming, House Burning Down, All Along The Watchtower (Dylan), Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
SIDE 2: Rainy Day, Dream Away, 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be), Moon, Turn The Tides Gently Gently, Away
Part 1 grouped together Side C and D of “Electric Ladyland” but with an inversed running order.
If we follow on from what Nils Lofgren said (Side D of “Ladyland” being the best ever side of an album) then this album, which opens with that side, coupled with the awesome Side C, must make it the greatest single L.P. of all time ! Lock me away.
“David King’s artwork for “Part 1” pictured the band playing aloft a futuristic vehicle as it cruises through a New York fantasy land (Electric Ladyland of course) and it remains my favourite Hendrix sleeve. This was quite prophetic as New York was where Jimi eventually chose to build his dream studio: Electric Lady Studios. New York was of course the city in which he had broken through. – 10/10
ELECTRIC LADYLAND Part 2
Released 1969 (Track)
SIDE 1: And the Gods Made Love, Have You ever Been To Electric Ladyland, Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile
SIDE 2: Little Miss Strange (Redding), Long Hot Summer Night, Come On (Part One) (King), Gypsy Eyes, Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
Sides A and B of the double album this time.
Simply a tighter cropping of the superb UK inner photo. A fine portrait of Jimi with good off-the-shelf impact. – 8/10
The 2008 Electric Ladyland 40th Anniversary book/box set
See Posthumous Studio Albums 2000s section
The 2018 Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary book/box set
See Posthumous Studio Albums 2010s section
Check out John Perry’s excellent book all about Electric Ladyland, in the 33 1/3 series (Continuum 2004).
John Perry was the lead guitarist for The Only Ones (highly recommended band!).
The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued to tour in the final months of 1968 but announced in December that they would separate the following year in order to pursue personnel projects. In fact, Mitch and Noel quit the band just like Chas had
Jimi talked of his own future albums evoking titles such as “Freedom”, “Both Ways”, “Shine On Earth, Shine On”, Gypsy Sun”,…. He also envisaged an album featuring acoustic work, a string section and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to be called “The End of The Beginning”. By January 1969, he told the press that he was going to drop his name from the band and that a new album from him, Mitch and Noel, titled “A Little Band Of Gypsies”, would be released in two months. This was all hot air however as the band had recorded hardly anything since the Electric Ladyland sessions and in early January, in an interview by Tony Plalmer, Jimi said “I used to write thousands of tunes but I don’t seem to get around to it now.” He also said that in the following summer would come his first solo work “First Rays Of The New Rising Sun” or “Last Rays Of The Morning Sun” hopefully with guest players like Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood and John Mayall.
There was a brief European tour in early 1969 (with many performances being filmed and recorded), followed two months later by another short tour of the U.S.A., then The Jimi Hendrix Experience finally broke up after a riotous gig June 1969, putting an end to the tensions that had been growing since early 1968.
During that last tour, Jimi had reached out to his old friend Billy Cox, inviting him to jam sessions (without Noel present of course). He also confessed to Billy in in April 1969 that his creativity had run dry and felt that he couldn’t think of anything new.
Jimi had announced his intention of taking “a year off” and right away, after that last Experience concert in June, he relaxed in a big house in the country (that manager Mike Jeffery rented for him) and gathered old friends around him while he searched for new ideas and began working on a new looser band concept, a “family” of musicians, to which he gave the name Sky Church. He saw this as an ever changing ensemble of musicians, where other writers or vocalists could participate. He also said that when he would reunite with Mitch and Noel, the band would no longer be called The Jimi Hendrix Experience but simply The Experience or perhaps something else altogether.
He appeared at the famous Woodstock festival in August 1969 with five other musicians (including Mitch Mitchell still on drums). The ensemble was billed and announced on the day as The Jimi Hendrix Experience but taking the stage, Jimi immediately said that the name of the group was Gypsy Sun and Rainbows adding “It’s nothin’ but a band of gypsies”.
After Woodstock he also began recording with them but things fell apart so he trimmed things down to a trio, keeping Billy Cox (his pre-Experience bass partner) and because Mitch settled back in England, he brought in his other old friend Buddy Miles (ex Wilson Pickett and Electric Flag) on drums. Miles had of course already played on “Electric Ladyland”).
A new U.S. tour was planned for the Autumn but Jimi didn’t feel at all ready to go out again, especially without Mitch and he just wanted to slow things down and concentrate on the next phase of his music. So he simply told his management and the tour organisers to cancel the tour.
However, one problem needed to be dealt with. To settle the lawsuit that was hanging over him since he had jumped contracts to go to England, he had been ordered to issue an album as a payment to PPX Enterprises via Capitol Records. Jimi had already evoked the possibility of issuing an Experience jam album to be titled “Little Band Of Gypsies”. Seeing that new studio material was sorely lacking, Mike Jeffery came up with the idea of giving a live album to Capitol/PPX. So Jimi reviewed some recordings of 1969 concerts and mixed the following performances for the live album:
– Hear My Train A Comin’ (Royal Albert Hall 24/02/1969)
– Purple Haze (San Diego 24/05/1969)
– Little Wing (Royal Albert Hall 24/02/1969)
– I Don’t Live Today (Los Angeles Forum 26/04/1969)
– Star Spangled Banner (listed as San Diego 24/05/1969 but probaly LA Forum?)
Unfortunately, this album never came together and Jimi tried to get things together in the studio but in the end opted to record a new live album with Cox and Buddy Miles.
BAND OF GYPSYS ♥♥♥♥
Released April 1970 (UK-Track/US Capitol)
SIDE 1: Who Knows, Machine Gun
SIDE 2: Changes (Miles), Power Of Soul, Message To Love, We Gotta Live Together (Miles)
A Band of Gypsys: Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Winwood, Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox – that is how Jimi wanted to play the end of year Fillmore concerts.
It didn’t turn out that way.
To settle the litigation with Ed Chalpin and Capitol Records, Mike Jeffery came up with the idea of a live recording of new songs. Jimi said of this project (to Norman Joplin in August 1970): “The only reason we put out ‘Band Of Gypsys” was because Capitol was pressing us for an L.P. – we didn’t have anything ready, so we gave them that.”
Jimi summoned Mitch for the concerts but he’d settled back in England and didn’t want to return to the states at that moment. Jimi had been loosely jamming with Buddy Miles so with Billy Cox finally returning (after fleeing several times), Buddy and Billy decided to help Jimi out of his contractual obligation.*
Miles has said that Jimi wanted to get Stevie Winwood to join the band on keyboards (which could have been terrific, considering Winwood’s masterful contribution to the Electric Ladyland album). This proves that it hadn’t been a conscious decision by Jimi to form an all black outfit as has been imagined over the years. However the hazardous coming together of the band might have pleased black activists who had been pushing Jimi to do more for black representation in the arts.
A Band Of Gypsys was exactly the same as his Gypsy Sun & Rainbows concept. Jimi in 1969: “The fact of callin’ it ‘Gypsys’ means that it could even expand on personnel…I might not even be there all the time. Buddy might not even be there all the time, but the core, the whole, the child will be there.”
This release (assembled by Jimi) captures them during their public debut performances at the Filmore East, New York on the 1/1/70 (they played 4 shows over two evenings). Despite the fact that the band seem ill-prepared for the event, there are some great moments on this record. Buddy Miles’ sparse and almost robotic style brought out a different aspect of Jimi’s playing.
Jimi presented some new songs here, Message To Love, Power Of Soul and of course the awesome Machine Gun and all three remain the definitive versions (Message To Love had been premiered months before at the Woodstock festival and Machine Gun around the same time on the Dick Cavett Show). This version of Machine Gun (the first to appear on record) is one of Jimi’s most impressive works. On the night he was on stunning form (despite some sketchy new songs) with the sound system perfectly responding to his every whim. Machine Gun is incomparable and as Lenny Kravitz points out on the “Band Of Gypsys” DVD, it “goes beyond guitar playing”. It is Jimi’s very soul flowing out through the amps. We also learn from the DVD that Machine Gun was the one that really got through to Miles Davis (as if “Ladyland” wasn’t enough!).
There is also Who Knows, an interesting funky soul composition of Jimi’s with a lot of vocal interplay between him and Miles and seems to have been performed only at these Fillmore concerts. Jimi in fact breaks a string midway through, leaving Miles and Cox to fill in, giving us some zany scat singing which was quite a shock to discover back in the early 70s. It seems like this was a sneer at Ed Chalpin – as fellow Hendrix fan Chris M said, over at Steve Hoffman Forums: “Think about it, the first song on Jimi’s follow up to Electric Ladyland, his first release in over 18 months, and he begins it with a loose jam, with semi-improvised lyrics where he breaks a string and Buddy Miles scats for several minutes before he returns? Who Knows is a fantastic groove with some nice soloing but primarily a middle finger to Ed Chalpin.”
This band wasn’t exactly a “supergroup” (like Blind Faith) but Miles had made quite a name for himself, after his stint with Electric Flag and his own band, Buddy Miles Express. Here, Buddy introduced his song Them Changes, the riff of which he had in fact stolen from Sing Lady Sing by The New York Rock And Roll Ensemble (featured on their 1969 album “Faithful Friends…”. Also performed was his very own Sly Stone tribute We Gotta Live Together (which combines Sly’s Sing A Simple Song and Everyday People as well as a snippet of Joe Hick’s Home Sweet Home – which was a Sly Stone produced song). Emmaretta Marks (who recorded later with Jimi as he prepared his 1970 album) was invited by Miles to add backing vocals for the Fillmore shows. She has said that she did sing accompaniment backstage on a couple of numbers but was put off by the fact that she felt that Miles was beginning to dominate Jimi and take over the band. Miles himself later said that he was the leader of The Band Of Gypsys!
Far more than just a drummer, Miles was a strong singer, supplying lead vocals on his own compositions and providing soulful backing vocals (plus some rather annoying whoops and wails). While his strong beats worked well on some songs, further releases of the Fillmore East recordings revealed that his unimaginative metronomic style was a hindrance on others and this wasn’t a good fit with Jimi’s multiverse of musical styles.
After the two Fillmore nights, the band played a disastrous gig at Madison Square Gardens (28/01/70), where Jimi walked off stage after just two numbers (he’d been slipped some bad acid before arriving at the hall and not by Mike Jeffrey as legend has it) he felt forced to admit that the group was going nowhere and the Band Of Gypsys was disbanded. Harry Shapiro (in Electric Gypsy): “Jimi was not happy having Buddy as his regular drummer, because he was just not good enough”. Gerry Stickells (from the same book):“Buddy was a solid, lay-down-the-beat, rock ‘n’ roll drummer. Mitch had a certain bit of jazz background there, that allowed him to move around a bit, around what Jimi was doing.” In fact Jimi considered Mitch to be the funkier of the two drummers (as said to Bob Dawbarn of Melody Maker 20/12/1969): “Buddy is more of a rock drummer. Mitch is more of a classic drummer – more of a funky, R&B type drummer.”
Stickells again on Buddy (in Setting The Record Straight): “Jeffery never considered Buddy Miles in the same league as Hendrix; for that matter, neither did Jimi.”
From Mitch’s autobiography, about the Band Of Gypsys: “…the gigs and the resulting album split fans… Hendrix too, seemed to have doubts almost straight away,…”. Mitch: “I know that Jimi loved Buddy’s drumming and singing, until he started working with him – certainly in terms of a performing band.'”
After the disastrous Madisons Square Gardens performance: “…Hendrix Phoned. He was not happy generally and certainly not happy with the direction of the band.” Jimi later said to a journalist: “None of us were satisfied with the record from those concerts. I was out of tune on that album.”
Buddy’s overbearing personality had a lot to do with the bad feeling. Jimi had been generous to let Buddy have space to express his own, more soul-based style of music, even letting him take vocals on a number of songs. This of course fitted in with his Electric Church/Gypsy Sun & Rainbows concept of a musician’s collective. Unfortunately however, Buddy’s soul style brought Jimi right back to his earlier years as an R’n’B sideman. Jimi had broken away from all that by crafting his own ground-breaking musical universe. He was an innovator, a trail-blazer leaving his peers in his wake through 1967 and 1968 and now, with A Band Of Gypsys, he found himself doing R’n’B and Sly Stone covers! This type of groovy soul was already prevalent at the time (check out The Isley Brothers’ It’s Your Thing from 1969 for example). One can understand why Jimi had doubts about the direction the band was taking, even if in his mind, this was a temporary outfit.
The other factor that contributed to Jimi’s decision to separate himself from Buddy was because of the drummer’s exploitation of the Hendrix office’s finances to fund private limousines, dental care for himself and his family,…
It must be said though that there is some great music, some stunning music on the Band Of Gypsys album, but in the final analysis, I suppose one realises how well Mitch Mitchell’s playing really complimented Jimi’s music overall. Eddie Kramer: “Coming from the jazz world, Mitch was the only one who could keep up with Jimi technically and intellectually.” (Mojo special 2023)
*Jimi and Buddy knew each other for years, having crossed paths frequently when the two cut their teeth as backing musicians. They met again at Monterey as Electric Flag were also on the bill, and later, the Buddy Miles Express were support band to the Experience on many occasions). The two often jammed together, even while The Experience were together and Jimi wrote the sleeve notes for Miles’s first solo album ‘Expressway Of Your Skull” in 1968. The second album from Buddy Miles Express in 1969 was called “Electric Church” and Jimi was guest producer on four tracks. That same year, Jimi had dubbed his own tour “Electric Church Music”. The two jammed together on stage at the Newport Pop Festival (22 June 69) performing already embryonic versions of We Gotta Live Together and Power Of Soul . Later, after the Band Of Gypsys concerts, Miles had a (hit ) single and a solo album titled Them Changes and a follow up album called We Gotta Live Together!
More tracks from these concerts were released on future releases “Band Of Gypsys 2”, “Lifelines”, “West Coast Seattle Boy” (box set) and more extensively on “Live At The Filmore East” and “Machine Gun” (the first show of the two night residency) and finally the near-complete concert recordings as a box set titled “Songs For Groovy Children” in 2019.
> A documentary film about the Band Of Gypsys was put out on video – see DVD
> It took Capitol 38 years to finally issue the songs with their correct names (Track and Polydor got it right from the start): Power Of Soul and Message To Love
The American cover (above right) has a rather fuzzy photo of Jimi performing at the Fillmore. – 7/10
The strange British sleeve featured dolls of Jimi, Dylan, Brian Jones and, correct me if I am wrong, the famous British radio presenter John Peel (already an important figure in rock by then). Saskia De Boer made the dolls. The Hendrix doll on the back made the error of portraying a right handed Hendrix (see Alternate Sleeves Part 4) was later used on the cover of “The Singles Album” (See Compilations). – 5/10
Track would soon re-issue the album with a photo of Jimi performing at the Isle Of Wight of all places (see Alternate covers Part 1).
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