Last month I was super pleased to review the Blu-ray Disc of Jimi Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition featuring a quite-stunning Surround Sound mix by original Engineer, Eddie Kramer. ICYMI, you can read that by clicking here. Here in Part Two of this review we’ll explore the rest of the collection.
In addition to getting a nice remastered Compact Disc of the core album (which sounds better than my likely late ’80s/early ’90s Reprise edition) you also get a CD of studio outtakes and demos plus a separate disc with a fascinating live concert recording. And of course you get the Blu-ray Disc containing the original album mix remastered in uncompressed 96 kHz, 24-bit resolution LPCM Stereo as well as a cool Making Of Electric Ladyland documentary. The Blu-ray disc also includes the whole album in 5.1 surround sound in both uncompressed 96 kHz, 24-bit LPCM form at DTS-HD Master Audio.
But, without further delay, lets dive into the Electric Ladyland universe…
At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes. (CD)
Despite a subtitle that is a journalistic mouthful, the bonus tracks presented in this set are fascinating and essential for the Hendrix fan. Many of these are recordings made by Jimi on his Teac reel-to-reel and they are quite wonderful, giving a lot of insight into how the songs came together. For some of them he has his amplifier on while on others he plays quietly and intimately on his unamplified electric guitar. So the sensation while listening to this is sort of like if you might be sitting there on a chair or on the couch in Jimi’s living room while he’s work out these tunes. It is especially cool to hear early versions of songs that didn’t make the final cut for Electric Ladyland, songs which came out posthumously but which are no less grand. Notably is an early version of the gorgeous ballad “Angel” and a sweet solo take of “My Friend” (both of which eventually came out posthumously on The Cry Of Love album). There are the unreleased experiments such as “Snowball At My Window.” The instrumental “Cherokee Mist” is a promising work-in-progress and the short early version of “Hear My Train A Comin’ is super interesting to hear as the song became a staple of his live shows and kind of mirrors the still-stunning acoustic 12-string version that ended up in the 1968 film Experience (aka See My Music Talking. “Angel Caterina (1983)” is an early version of what became “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” on the final album. There are a lot of versions of “Long Hot Summer Night” which shows how the song evolved from its first demo through Take #14.
Really, for an assortment of recordings which were never meant for commercial release, this disc sounds remarkably good and is an enjoyable end-to-end listen.
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Sept 14,1969 (CD)
Released as part of the Jimi Hendrix Estate’s “Dagger Records” series of official bootlegs, this unauthorized raw soundboard monitor mix is both fascinating and frustrating. Frustrating because it is clearly such a great performance presenting a terrific and exciting snapshot of the sort of Jimi-mania that was happening at that point in his career yet as the mania increases you kinda wish you could go back in time to tap the shoulder of the folks taping it to tell them to turn down their recording levels!
Indeed, large portions of this recording are pretty distorted — ok, very distorted — but once you get used to that vibe, you get fully immersed in The Hollywood Bowl in the Fall of 1968. It is a moment when fans were catapulting Jimi to become the hottest concert ticket of the late 1960s. Its a moment when you witness (aurally, at least) fans jumping into the reflecting pool that separates the Hollywood Bowl stage from the audience while the band tries to keep security from flipping out (and shutting down the show) and fans from getting electrocuted! Its a moment when you get to hear Jimi breakout “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” to an audience before its been released… And, its a moment when you get to hear him do cool album tracks like “Are You Experienced” and “Little Wing” live in concert. This is ultimately a ver groovy show and as long as you don’t bum out on the sound quality, then you’ll be happy as was I. Just setting realistic expectations here, folks…
At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland documentary (Blu-ray)
On the Blu-ray Disc you also get a wonderful behind the scenes documentary on the making of Electric Ladyland. Its quite notable as there are interview segments with former manager Chas Chandler (ex-Animals bassist who helped put Jimi on the map who had quit during the production of this album), Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding (all three, RIP). This is an expanded version of the documentary originally produced as part of the Classic Albums TV series, newly edited with about 40 minutes of additional material. Noel Redding apparently contributed some of the 8mm film footage from his personal archives to make this documentary an essential insider view of what The Jimi Hendrix Experience was about at this time and place.
Of course, there is also a wonderful hard cover book containing this collection with all manner of behind the scenes photos, handwritten lyrics, original multi-track tape boxes and essays telling the back story. The cover design of the hardcover book-style boxed set is notable as it was taken by the future Linda McCartney (then Linda Eastman) in Central Park in NYC; this photo was apparently Jimi’s preferred image for the album cover but it was rejected by the record label at the time. The collection also includes alternate album cover designs on the Blu-ray and Compact Discs. So you really get an immersion into everything that went on in the making of this set.
At this point you probably should just go out and get the set to judge for yourself. Its not that expensive relatively and despite a tiny nit pick or two I have — the navigation screen on the Blu-ray could have been nicer and it would have been good to have all the outtakes and such in high resolution on that disc, not just on the CD — Jimi Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is a fabulous and lovingly produced package. You should get it.