Looking at the third and sadly, final studio album from Jimi Hendrix, it reminds me of the proverb Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While his first album was a bit too standard and simple for a talent like Hendrix, and his second album was a bit too far out there for my tastes at times, the third album, “Electric Ladyland” was just right… Rated as the #53 Greatest Album of All Time by Rolling Stone, this album is the perfect blend of experimental jams and sharply focused classic songs. In case you didn’t notice, all three of Hendrix’s albums are in the RS Top 100, a testament to his lasting influence and impact to this day.
After asking us if we have ever been to “Electric Ladyland”, the album punches you with one of his funkiest tunes, “Crosstown Traffic”, always a favorite of mine. This album, a double album of material, then blends in long jams, mellow ballads, and even old school rockers like “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” that take you back to when Jimi was a supporting act for Little Richard. This record gives us our best preview of what Hendrix could have given us over the last 50 years. Listen to the guitar opening on “House Burning Down” or the unreal accompaniment on “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”. There just wasn’t anything else like it. In addition to his core band the Experience, many legends support this album at some point, including Stevie Winwood, Al Kooper, Dave Mason, Jack Casady, Buddy Miles and Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones.
And if I needed to love this album anymore, it closes with two of his most iconic songs, starting with his cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. On a rare occasion, the cover artist claims someone else’s song permanently, and although many have tried over the years, there is, and will only ever be, one best version of this song. Jimi’s beautiful yet intense guitar adds a context this song couldn’t even imagine on its own, and he turned it into one of the signature timepieces of the turbulent late 1960s. To close it out and follow that up? Perhaps the single most remarkable 5 minute representation of his greatness, in my humble opinion. “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” is the one song I would play for someone who has never heard or studied Hendrix before when trying to sum up his talent, and this song is the perfect exclamation point and farewell to the recording career of the Master of the Stratocaster. He was truly one of a kind and changed rock guitar forever.