The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set Review

Thanks to such classic tracks as “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” and their iconic cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” Electric Ladyland was yet an instant classic when it was released by The Jimi Hendrix Experience on October 16, 1968. In honor of the album’s recently fiftieth birthday, Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings have assembled the Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set, a mostly interesting but also somewhat flaweed 3CD/1BD or 6LP/1BD collection that includes the album, demos, a previously unreleased concert recording, and a making-of documentary.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set

Photo Credit: Chuck Boyd © Authentic Hendrix

 

As you’d expect,

the first disc of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set is a newly remastered version of the album. Though there’s also, on the Blu-ray disc, a high-resolution version of the album, as well as a new 5.1 surround sound version made by the album’s co-engineer, Eddie Kramer. All three of which sound better than previous CD editions, though only — of course — if you have a good stereo and, in the case of the latter two edition, the proper equipment to play them.

Next, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s: Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set has a disc called At Last…The Beginning: The Making Of Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes. A collection of  twenty demos, this not only includes early versions of “Gypsy Eyes” and “Voodoo Chile,” but also ones for such non-Ladyland tracks as “Hear My Train A Comin'” (a staple of his post-Experience live shows that also appeared on the band’s BBC Sessions), and “Angel” (which he rerecorded for what would eventually become The Cry Of Love).

As is always the case with demos, the ones included on The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set are a mixed bag. While some are only worth listening to once out of curiosity’s sake, a couple are worth keeping, especially if you don’t own the Jimi By Himself: The Home Recordings CD that came with the graphic novel biography Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend Of Jimi Hendrix. Included in its entirety here, that disc included solo acoustic versions of “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be),” “Angel,” “Cherokee Mist,” “Voodoo Chile,” “Gypsy Eyes,” and a truncated take on “Hear My Train A Comin'” that are beautiful in their sparseness.

Beyond that, the Early Takes disc part of the Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set also has a fun solo ditty by Jimi called “My Friend,” a lengthy and very different but instrumental take on “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be),” and two very different instrumental versions of “Rainy Day, Dream Away.”

Of course, not everything on the Early Takes disc in The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set is worth keeping. Without Jimi playing guitar on it, the demo of “Little Miss Strange” is even less interesting than the bland finished version, while “At Last…The Beginning” is just an early version of the odd instrumental “…And The Gods Made Love” that opens Electric Ladyland. Then there’s “Snowballs At My Window” and “Somewhere,” which sound like they could be the beginning of cool songs, but are not cool songs yet.

Along the same lines, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s: Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set also has five different versions of “Long Hot Summer Night.” But while the “Take 1” and “Take 14” versions — instrumentals that have Jimi and pianist Al Kooper on the former, and Jimi, Kooper, and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on the latter — are groovy and pretty different from what we all now know as Electric Ladyland‘s “Long Hot Summer Night,” the other three are less interesting, as they’re just Jimi playing solo acoustic guitar for a couple of minutes.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set

Photo Credit: Chuck Boyd © Authentic Hendrix

 

Like the the Early Takes disc,

the live album included on The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set is also a bit of a mixed blessing. Recorded September 14, 1968 at the Hollywood Bowl, this nearly seventy minute-long recorded is a warts and all concert recording that really makes you feel like you’re in the audience. And not just because it opens with Jimi and the band tuning up their instruments after they’ve already been introduced.

It’s also a rather interesting show for being longer than most live discs by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. While the Stockholm 67, Paris 68, and San Diego 69 discs from the Stages boxed set have just eight tunes each, the Hollywood Bowl show has eleven. Though most of the songs are ones hardcore fans of the band will already have on other live discs. Besides the requisite classics “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Fire,” and “Foxey Lady,” the show also has them tearing through such concert stapes as “Are You Experienced?”, “Little Wing,” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” as well as covers of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “The Star Spangled Banner” like they did at many of their shows back then.

Unfortunately, the Hollywood Bowl disc in The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set has some problems that might render it moot for some fans. The end of “Foxey Lady” is cut off, as is a sizeable chunk from “Fire,” while “Purple Haze” end abruptly. Though the biggest bummer about is that because the show took place before the album came out, it only has one track from it: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

As for the DVD, that part of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set not only has the aforementioned 5.1 Surround Sound and High Resolution Audio mixes of the album, but also a copy of the making-of documentary, “At Last…The Beginning: The Making Of Electric Ladyland.” Previously released in  2008, this not only includes both vintage interviews and concert footage with what was then new interviews, but it also has parts where Kramer uses a mixing board to show how the album took advantage of the studio.

Rounding out The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set is a collection of notes and photos that include annotations on the demos, vintage photos and shots of Jimi’s hand-written lyrics and notes, and essays by Kramer and others, all of which give even more insight into how the album was made.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set

In the end,

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary Box Set may be far from perfect, but it’s still a great fiftieth birthday present for this album…and, of course, anyone who loves it.

SCORE: 8.0/10

 

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