Tuesday, August 09, 2011

55. Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Rainy Day, Dream Away" (1968)


This is the kickoff to one of the great album sides, effectively a kind of album within the album. Electric Ladyland is altogether outstanding, of course, not least because close study quickly reveals there is no end of albums within the album, crisscrossing across the sides and the tracking sequences and sonic textures and melodies and motifs and themes. (Start, and finish, with the "Voodoo Chile" arc, which closes the first and last sides of the original double-album package. There's plenty more when you go looking for it.) A lot of the elements that made Jimi Hendrix a titan, profound and throwaway equally, are present in this deceptive three-minute goof: the light-hearted dope-smoking scenario and the reminder of what a sweet moment such activity provides from the inside on a rainy day, the lazy woodshedding feel of this particular jam, with its smoldering groove anchored by a rich Hammond organ sound and inflected by a sax. And then the way that the guitar, at the very end, almost right on the fade, steps up and starts talking: "Whoa! Wuh-oh. Well what did you think, hmm? That I couldn't do this all day and in my sleep too?" That's a rough rendition—no Alta Vista Babel Fish translator is ever going to work out the fine points. In fact, it functions as something of a hyperlink to two separate points within the album. The next song on the side is "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)," a supremely beautiful and dreamy meditation that winds like smoke from a night fire toward black sky and stars, crashing then on the shore of the nearly nine-minute "Moon, Turn the Tides...Gently, Gently," which follows it. That's side 3. Meanwhile, side 4 opens with "Still Raining, Still Dreaming" and that exact same talking guitar last heard toward the end of "Rainy Day, Dream Away." Oh, oop, what do you know, another direction it could have gone. Another direction it went.

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