Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Short Spin: The Jimi Hendrix Experience -- Electric Ladyland 180 Gram Legacy Vinyl

Electric Ladyland (2 Vinyl)

In conjunction with the "new" 2-LP vinyl release from Jimi Hendrix, Valleys Of Neptune, Sony/Legacy has reissued remastered vinyl editions of First Rays Of The Rising Sun, as well as the three "proper" albums from the Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland. Today, Myvinylreview examines Legacy's 180 gram reissue of the third and final release from the Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (1968).

The two 180 gram platters of  RTI-pressed vinyl arrived flat and clean, and were housed in their preferred rose-colored poly inner sleeves.  Both discs played flawlessly, without any hint of noise during playback. The gatefold cover has a matte finish and is made of standard weight card stock, and features the front, back and interior gatefold artwork from the original Reprise release.  Also included, is an eight-page booklet of photos and liner notes. Although Sony undoubtedly could have sold considerably more of these records had they used the original UK Track cover art, Experience Hendrix has reportedly refused to grant permission for its use.

In order to differentiate these 2010 Sony/Legacy releases from the 1997 digitally-sourced Experience Hendrix releases, the hype sticker on the outer bag prominently states that this is an "All Analog Remaster From The Original 2-Track Master Tapes By Jimi's Original Engineer." They are referring, of course, to engineer Eddie Kramer, who mastered this release for vinyl with cutting engineer George Marino, of Sterling Sound.

In preparing for this review, I pulled out my original UK Track and U.S. Reprise copies of the record.  As I've done with virtually every review, I primarily played complete album sides, in order to experience the vibe and overall tone of each particular pressing.  Only occasionally, did I stop for direct back-to-back comparisons.  And as often happens with a record that I haven't played in a while, I was somewhat surprised by what I found.

Original U.S. Reprise
The original two-tone Reprise actually has tonal characteristics that are typical of many Sixties and Seventies UK rock pressings, with a relaxed, tubey sound that emphasizes the lower-mids and rolls off the highs.  While not as detailed as either the UK Track or the Legacy 180 gram reissue, the Reprise sounds better and better as you turn it up, never fatiguing the listener--even on songs like Crosstown Traffic--and I prefer Hendrix to be played loud.

The Reprise pressing shares not only the two-tone label with the likes of Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but also shares its warm, relaxed sound.  The more I listen to it, the more I like it--don't let the label of warmth fool you, this pressing throws out a nice soundstage and exhibits plenty of detail and ambience during all but a few cuts, with the ambitious, thirteen-minute apocalyptic epic,  1983 . . . (A Merman I Should Turn to Be), sounding particularly fantastic.

(Original UK Track cover, back to front)

Original UK Track
The UK Track, combines additional detail and ambient cues, with a tonal balance weighted more heavily toward the upper-midrange, occasionally bordering on sibilant.  Hendrix's Stratocaster, however, absolutely comes to life on the Track, with a depth of character that isn't heard on either of the other pressings.  Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) is reason enough to own the Track, as it captures Jimi with his guitar, and brings them into your room with a realism and a vengence that is unmatched by the other copies of the record.

Sony/Legacy 180 Gram Reissue
When you first play the new 180 gram reissue from Legacy, you are immediately hit by the increased bass, as well as the additional detail.  This pressing does a very nice job of capturing the kick-drum, as well as the lows of Hendrix's Stratocaster--and that sound can initially be very intoxicating on songs such as Voodoo Chile. Unfortunately, the increased detail brings with it a much brighter sound--and the cymbals and keyboards become fatiguing rather quickly, especially at higher volumes--and I like to play Hendrix loud.
While I have no doubt that this is an analog mastering, there is something about it that sounds "digital" to me--I guess it just sounds a bit sterile.

(Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell)

If you already own an original UK Track pressing of this record, you need not look any further. Consider yourself fortunate, as finding one in clean condition today isn't easy--and likely to set you back several hundred dollars.  U.S. pressings on Reprise, however, are not nearly as difficult to come by--and shouldn't cost any more than this very reasonably priced 180 gram reissue. 

If this album is in your Top 20, you owe it to yourself to eventually acquire an original Track.  On the other hand, if this isn't one of your desert island discs, and you've still never been satisfied with the Reprise, finding it either too polite or lacking detail, you might just find what you are looking for in this well-priced and very nicely pressed and packaged Legacy reissue from Sony.


jcstark said...

Thanks for the review. I like how much technical detail goes into the reviews you write. For someone like me who is new to the vinyl scene (only 3 years now) and without an original of either "Ladyland" or "Experienced" I found that these remasters were a great way to obtain a nice sounding play copy until I run across UK or US originals.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that some of us like detail and really aren't thrilled with those old 60's pressings with rolled off bass and treble. I've been burned several times now reading "audiophile" comments about how much better original pressings sound only to seek them out, pay top dollar and then find them dull and weak sounding. I'm glad to know the new Hendrix LPs are detailed AND analog. That's the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

Nice quip about the new release sounding "digital" to you, since they are absolutely not digital. You talk about the new release having better detail, more prominent bass, and a brighter sound; only to follow it up by calling it "sterile". It just doesn't connect.

I have the UK track, a European Polydor, the tri-color original Reprise and the two color Reprise of ELL. They all have slightly different sonic characteristics and come from inferior sources.

After 40 years we are finally getting Hendrix as he was meant to be heard, and it is a shame it has taken this long. These are the original masters, not generational copies that we have seen on vinyl and CD over the years. They aren't compressed and clipped like the first appearance of the master tapes on CD. This is as close to the master tapes as we have ever come, and you are lamenting it because you don't like the sound Jimi worked hard on. Remember that ELL was the one Jimi became a producer on and made his harshest critique of the sound the vinyl had versus what he had on the master tapes.

I'll go with Jimi on this one.

Anonymous said...

I really REALLY enjoy your site and find most of your reviews "spot on" but I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one.

Maybe it's system dependent, etc. - but the words "sterile" and "bright" are the furthest adjectives from my mind when listening to any of these new analog re-issues.

These all have what I would describe as extended airy highs that never cross over into "bright" or fatiguing with wonderful solid bass energy. "Dynamic" and "fun" are what come to mind.

Anonymous said...

As a causal passer by of this review I found it interesting as even though I have not had all the different pressings listed, I zeroed in on the sound comments after reading the review equipment list. I don't have a Nottingham table, but a VPI Scoutmaster, and DO or have had the phono cartridge and phono stage listed. I have worked my way up the BENZ cartridge line starting with the ACE used here in the review. While it is a great tracking and sounding cartridge it does tend to lean more on the upper frequencies. I found the same thing with its' successor, The Glider. It wasn't until I moved up to the next level, the first in the wood body models, an L2, that things made a dramatic change for the better. Smoother highs that did not grate like the ACE and Glider tended to do on certain pressings. I still get the highs but with less intensity. I also switched from medium to a low output model. This is where and possibly why there are some disagreements with the sound posted here. I have the 1997 ELL from EH and it too was pressed at RTI, is dead quiet, and sounds great to me. Same mastering engineers were involved in that cutting also. Those pressings were advertised as analog too...

Mister Tango said...

I'm listening to the 2010 vinyl re-release of ELL now and I'm really struck by how RICH it sounds at a loud volume! I guess its all relative because I've been so used to the shrill of a CD pumped loud that I forgot how a decently mastered piece of vinyl can be. I'm not really an audiophile but I've recently expected my vinyl to be of good quality (thank god for the vinyl resurgence!) I came of age in the late 80's and 90's so half my music collection is already LPs. I used to buy punk/new wave stuff back in the 80's so excellent quality vinyl from the 60's were something quite foreign to me and a releases like these are quiet eye openers. So, like I said, its all relative and this version of ELL is truly blowing me away!!!

Mister Tango said...

...oh yeah, and one more thing: your site is fantastic and an invaluable contribution to the community of born-again vinyl lovers. Thanks.

Matthieu said...

If you haven't already, I would recommend looking for the French Barclay label vinyl edition. They are the best sounding version I have heard. There is an old boxset of his first 3 albums selling occasionaly on ebay. Be warned however, there is also a bootleg of ABAL on red vinyl.

Anonymous said...

Hello, My (just purchased) "Are you Experienced" Jimi Hendrix Sony re release 180gram vinyl LP is fantastic sounding - well almost - except I also find the balance is a bit too "hot" in the highs.
My equipment has the (very slightly warm) Lyra Skala cartridge along with quality electronics and Harbeth HL5 Super speakers. Hardly a fierce sounding combination, but that is how this particular LP comes across. Amazing though in every other area. Cheers, Stuart

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for this review, & thanks also to the commenters for their opinions. I found your blog while deciding whether or not to get this LP. Very helpful. I'm ordering it now! & bookmarking your site :)

Bas Möllenkramer said...

I have the German 2CD set of this album, the one with the four sides in the wrong order. I grabbed the tracks to my PC, upsampled them all to 24 bits 96 kHz and burnt my own stereo DVD-AUDIO. The result is a disc with all the analog warmth that I remember from old vinyl issues. I can listen to this self-made disc at any volume. When played really loud I am able to clearly hear the actual notes played by Hendrix on the bass in 1983. And its just awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is the best version yet. Sounds great on my system.

Anonymous said...


Somebody know if the Geffen 180g reissues of "Are you experience?" and "Axis: B.A.L. sounds better than the Sony /Legacy one ? is the higher price justified ?


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your close listen to ELL and the insights you shared. Your review is the most balanced I have read yet of the new 2010 Sony/Legacy Hendrix LPs.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank the reviewer and say that I totally agree with the him on the brightness of EL on this new vinyl reissue.

On my system - that plays wonderfully all sorts of other recent stuff - this is bright to the point of being fatiguing. The high frequencies are raspy. I have many other reissues from analogue tapes (some mastered by Hoffman, some by Grundman, some on Sundazed) and this EL does not come close to any of them.

While the sound is full and the bass is ok, I refuse to think that this is "Hendrix as it was meant to be heard". I have a reissue lp of Band of Gypsys by Classic Records, 140g, which is
WAY BETTER than this.

Bottom line, I won't be buying the other two records in this reissue series.

Anonymous said...

Would really like to know the kit you played this back on.
I found that simple changes to a set up make small differences, so changing the stylus can make a huge change in the overall sound.
ELL, I found to be too bright for my ears but a change in cartridge / stylus altered that to such a huge degree. Bright still but gone is that harshness and now sounds much more rounded without any lose of detail or instrument seperation.
Could be the the base line by which all future ELL pressings will need to be measured from.

Owen O'Neill said...

I owned the original Track LP but completely wore it out to the point where it wasn't listenable (uhhh... yes I like my Hendrix :-) At some point I stumbled across a mint Reprise copy but it was lost in the shuffle of moving some years back. I'd been listening to CD's on a mid-fi system and in the car in recent years and never warmed to the CD sound but found it convenient. A month ago the audio bug caught me again and I picked up some vintage gear - a Citation 22 amp, Ohm Walsh 2 speakers (incredible soundstage) and a Conrad Johnson PV2 preamp. With my old Technics SL-1400 table and a Shure V15 Type IV cartridge (not the greatest but adequate) I was blown away by how engaging sound had once again become. I picked up the Legacy reissues of all three original LPs and found the sound to be incredibly detailed and rewarding - much better than any of the several CD versions I own (I also had the British "twofer" double album with AYE and Axis sold together but that wad also worn beyond playing.)

Here's the thing... the Conrad Johnson preamp had a minor issue and the shop I bought it from had it last week to fix and clean up a few things. They gave me a Dynaco PAS-3 tube preamp as a loaner. ELL had that slightly overly bright and fatiguing sound with the Dynaco preamp but when I got the CJ back in my system today... magic! I have side 1 on now.... LOUD. And it's good. Glad I discovered your blog - I appreciate the detailed and thorough reviews and look forward to reading more of them. (I guess my overall point is that for some reason this release can have very different sonic signatures depending on the equipment)

Kevin Carroll said...

I at one point owned a 2nd pressing reprise and a track copy, I had always wondered about these legacy reissues since they came pretty reputable. I have since got rid of my US copy as I did not like it, but if I own the definitive edition there is no need to buy any more copies. Nice job on the blog, was a good read

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Anonymous said...

I'm late in the game on this issue, but I do have Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love on the new Legacy George Marino(RIP) LP's and must say the only one out of these two that the original UK Track(and org US Reprise Stereo for AYExperienced) pressing betters is Axis, and not by much.

I love the UK Ladyland, but I feel it's a bit too upper midrange-y, but has that slam in dynamics the US doesn't have. I'm hoping the Legacy may have a smoother presentation in this area.

My first 2 are the non-numbered issues pressed at Quality Record Pressings, and they are close to perfect, pressing-wise.

Anonymous said...

I had the ELL Polydor from 1972 with the ugly lady cover pressed in Holland, dead quiet, but always missing the punch that I expected after AYE and Axis, so I never grew into this album, asked myself why on the dancefloor Voodoo chile hit me so hard and here in my room it was behind a veil. All along the Watchtower just missed all kinds of details and dynamics. Only 1983 came over pretty psychedelic, but smooth. Now with the 2010 remaster I finally get this record. Even the long version (what a bass sound, what a spacious ambience) of Voodoo is thrilling now. The treated keyboard (spinet ?) on Burning of the Midnight lamp is finally identified and rocks. 1983 has more guts, and detail. All along the Watchtower becomes the storm it should be and Voodoo slight return bites and swoops like I heard it when it came out as a single. The brightness of the remaster is not over the top, it gives the record teeth. The minor rockers gain in significance because the multiple guitar parts are duelling more, instead of becoming meshed up. For me I am finaslly loving ELL as much as the other two experience albums. So for me, having heard the old ones (the Reprise I heard did not do it either, though it was livelier than the dull Polydor) I am glad with the new edition. But your comments were insightful
greetings hans altena

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