“Electric Ladyland Redux” (Magnetic Eye Records 2015)

Written by Album Review

I can’t remember if it was Hamlet or Jack Slater who said “something is rotten in the state of tribute albums”. Either way, he was right. Rock musicians have been trying to pay tribute to rock’s iconic format, the 33rpm LP, for almost fifty years. 50’s rock’n’roll and pop were designed for the 45rpm single, disco and electro were shaped by maxi single… and rock was built around the LP and its variations: double or triple LP, concept-album, rock opera, etc. So, you’d think that, among all the various tribute albums released each year, most of them would salute not only the work of the celebrated artists as composer but also their dedication to produce consistent albums, to find the right sequencing, to design a slick general aesthetic. Well, think again! Tribute albums that take on the task of covering a whole album are scarce and, most of the time, they are the lone project of a single band or artist. Just because it involved several bands, the Magnetic Eye-initiated project of Electric Ladyland Redux stood out when it started its shut up and take my money crowdfunding campaign.

Side A
1. “…And the Gods Made Love” / Elephant Tree
2. “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” / Open Hand
3. “Crosstown Traffic” / Superchief
4. “Voodoo Chile” / All Them Witches
Side B
1. “Little Miss Strange” / Origami Horses
2. “Long Hot Summer Night” / The Heavy Eyes
3. “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” / Earthless
4. “Gypsy Eyes” / Wo Fat
5. “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” / Mos Generator
Side C
1. “Rainy Day, Dream Away” / Gozu
2.”1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” / Summoner
3. “Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away” / Claymation
Side D
1. “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” / Mothership
2. “House Burning Down” / King Buffalo
3. “All Along the Watchtower” / Tunga Moln
4. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” / Elder

After waiting several months, we can finally answer the obvious question: does Electric Ladyland Redux honour its glorious model? The answer is without a doubt “yes”. Firstly, because each one of the bands involved found different ways of making their respective cover song their own. That ALL THEM WITCHES would take on the lengthy blues jam “Voodoo Chile” seems obvious a priori. It remains so a posteriori as the Tennessee-born quartet walks on Hendrix’s steps with ease. There’s a certain nonchalance to their version, as if they didn’t have to push themselves. In doing so, the band manages to bring back the original spirit of the song. Just as EARTHLESS does, rolling out their acid groove on “Let The Good Times Roll” as if the track was written for them. As they manage to own the song without ever betraying its initial style (or their own), EARTHLESS reveals the role Hendrix’ music plays in their artistic identity. Even bands whose musical styles are further away from Hendrix’ music managed to find a gimmick to make their covers interesting. Superchief’s raw vocals beef up “Crosstown Traffic” while TUNGA MOLN disorients the listener with their Swedish version of “All Along The Watchtower”. In this game, though, ELDER pulls the longest straw with a full and extensive reshaping of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. The band dares to change the song beyond recognition as they allow themselves to move across different styles and atmospheres, starting with a lengthy psychedelic intro, then stepping into a heavy rock saturation block which gives way to a distorted solo wandering into experimental territories. ELDER’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” is a tour de force which honours the original Electric Ladyland diversity.

What stands out at the end of the album is that the bands selected by Magnetic Eye succeeded to give Electric Ladyland its original freshness back. We often consider the classics from the late 60s (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pet Sounds, Anthem of the Sun, Beggars Banquet) as important artefact (yes indeed, they belong in a museum) that we should worship as perfect masterpieces. Electric Ladyland Redux comes to remind us that Hendrix record was above all a playground for the guitarist. He was granted a total artistic freedom and an unlimited studio time, and was able to experiment.The result is an anarchic blend of electro-acoustic experimental tracks (“Moon, Turn The Tides… Gently Gently Away”), blues jams (“Still Raining, Still Dreaming”), pop songs (“House Burning Down”) and more.

As they translated this disjointed, experimental aspect without ever betraying the ideas behind each song, Magnetic Eye proved that Electric Ladyland is still an inexhaustible source of inspiration for a whole musical scene to drink from. And that’s without a doubt the best kind of tribute!

ARTIST: Various
TITLE: “Electric Ladyland Redux” 
RELEASE DATE: July 3rd, 2015
LABEL: Magnetic Eye Records
GENRE: Blues/psych rock
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Last modified: 27 November 2015