Sunday, August 9, 2020

THE GREATEST ROCK GUITAR ALBUM EVER MADE

Image for postHigh impact,yes it was, but I need to say that in decades that followed this followed genius's death, I've come to be weary of Hendrix when his name comes up in conversation. It's a matter of those from my high school graduating year all over the world turning this innovative musician into a deity, making him less an artist and more of a fetish item. Hendrix more or less gave us five studio albums of finished work --I am including Cry of Love   and Rainbow Bridge (1971), both released posthumously, because the songs there upon are as good as the ones released during his lifetime. I think these songs are heard by us more or less (that phrase again!) as Hendrix intended. His body of finished work is a little broader than we might remember.Electric Ladyland is the best double record studio release from a rock musician. It's often guessed at what Hendrix might have expanded his guitar sound into had he not gagged on his own wretch while asleep--jazz? cosmic funk? jazz fusion with Miles Davis? electronic music? orchestral material with larger ensembles? 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland (1968, 2-Tone ...Electric Ladyland gives us indications that the power trio format would not long hold Hendrix-- the variety of styles, the shimmering brilliance of the production and mixing, the exhilarating guitar improvisations and the multi-tracking of guitar parts to produce a nuanced weave of sound, textures and short riffs and counter melodies playing tag in in even the strictest arrangement. And Hendrix was about to emerge as one of the most important songwriters of his generation, not just a windup guitar hero, but an actual auteur. His lyrics had by this time taken the street grit of the urban black experience, combined it with equal doses of Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Bob Dylan, The Impressions and, yes, his good friends in Cream and created a vibrant, always engaging eclecticism that remains, soothing, bracing, energizing, whatever you need it to do all these decades later. "Burning of the Midnight Lamp", "House Burning Down", "Crosstown Traffic", "Gypsy Eyes", "1983 (a merman I should be)...". 

These songs were the work of a writer coming into his own as both melodist and lyricist. Yes, lets give credit for his interpretations of Dylan and Earl Hooker, but the attraction of this album is as much about Hendrix's own compositions as it is his guitar prowess. And make no mistake, I am one who thinks that this is a rock guitar record that is unlikely to be equaled by anyone at any time. It showcases everything that Hendrix could do with the latent talent that he had and it revealed, as well, how he could absorb influences, other styles of music and juggle personas as he merged, melded and mashed together genres that wouldn't normally be a good fit for one another but which, in Hendrix's imagination and application, resulted in sounds that exhibited the dual qualities of sounding new, distinct, the work of no other, but which also made you appreciate how organic his inventiveness sounded. Even with all the electronic hardware and studio technology in his employ, his personality was never buried under the audio brilliance . Somehow it all linked to the blues tradition of old, the fabled grizzled, trouble black troubadour on a stage, a porch, a campfire, playing his funky rhythms on guitar and speaking his mind on what haunts him and what vague hopes keep him moving to the next day. Hendrix spoke of his world and made the special effects a servent to his all consuming muse.This album makes me think that the loss of Jimi Hendrix is about the only instance where the world was robbed ; we lost fifty years of genius with his departure.

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