50th Anniversary Editions Of Two Iconic Albums Released

The Beatles’ White Album and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland are celebrated with major reissues

Today could be a first, or in case I’m wrong, it’s safe to say this doesn’t happen often: Two major reissues of albums by iconic music artists appearing the same day. The White Album by The Beatles and Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience are now officially out. Other than what’s currently available in Apple Music I don’t have access to any of the actual special releases at this time, yet I’d feel remiss not write about these special editions.

While the White Album isn’t my favorite Beatles album and I tend to agree with those who say they should have put the strongest songs on one record rather than releasing a double album, The Beatles remain my all-time favorite band. That’s likely not going to change. Moreover, based on what I’ve read and heard, this reissue definitely features material that intrigues me. As for Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland would be my no. one album choice overall, even though it doesn’t include my two favorite Hendrix tunes: Purple Haze and Hey Joe.

The White Album 50th Anniversary Configurations

The White Album reissue is available in four configurations: A Super Deluxe 7-disc set (on the left in above picture) featuring 50 mostly previously unreleased recordings all newly mixed with 5.1 surround audio as well as the so-called Esher Demos; a deluxe 4-LP edition; a 2-LP issue (pictured above in the middle); and a deluxe 3-CD set (on the right in the above image). The remixed original tracks, the Esher Demos and additional takes are also available on iTunes/Apple Music and other digital and streaming services.

Similar to last year’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band anniversary edition, Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, worked together with mix engineer Sam Okell. They newly mixed the album’s 30 original tracks in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, together with 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes, most of which weren’t released in any form previously. While I have no doubt the sound is fantastic and superior to previous recordings, for the most part I can’t hear the differences. That’s largely because the streaming versions are lower quality than the CDs or vinyl records. And, yes, part of it may also be explained by some hearing loss I can’t deny! Here’s a cool lyric video of the 2018 mix of Back In The U.S.S.R.

Given the above mentioned sound quality constraints, what’s more intriguing to me, are the additional demo and session tracks, particularly the Esher Demos that were recorded in May 1968 at George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher located to the southwest of London. These are early and unplugged versions of most of the original album tracks, along with a few additional songs that didn’t make the album.

Two of the tunes that weren’t included on the White Album, Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam, ended up on Abbey Road. Not Guilty, a Harrison composition, was eventually released on his eponymous studio album from February 1979, his eighth studio record. And then there’s John Lennon’s Child Of Nature, which became Jealous Guy and was included on Lennon’s second solo album Imagine from September 1971 – admittedly stuff that is likely to primarily excite Beatles fans like myself.

Two things are very striking to me about these Esher Demos. The amount of writing was just remarkable during a time when tensions among The Beatles were increasing, which even led to Ringo Starr’s temporary departure. But despite their differences, somehow these guys were still able to engage as a band. They even has some fun, as background chatter on some of these home recordings suggests. Here’s the Esher Demo of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. While it’s clearly not my favorite Beatles tune, does this sound to you like a band in distress?

The Electric Ladyland Deluxe 50th Anniversary Box Set comes in two formats: 3-CD/one Blu-ray or 6-LP/one Blue-ray. It features a newly remastered Electric Ladyland album; Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes (unreleased demos); Live At The Hollywood Bowl 9/14/68 (unreleased concert); the previously released documentary about the making of the album At Last … The Beginning with 40 minutes of new footage; 5.1 surround sound mix of Electric Ladyland album; Linda McCartney’s original cover photo as chosen by Jimi Hendrix but rejected by the record company; a 48-page book featuring unpublished photos; and new essays by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and Hendrix biographer John McDermott.

Electric Ladyland Box Set

CD mastering and the 5.1 surround sound mix were done by Eddie Kramer, sound engineer on all Hendrix albums released during his lifetime. Vinyl mastering was done by Bernie Grundman, who has mastered albums, such as Aja (Steely Dan), Thriller (Michael Jackson) and various Prince records.

Similar to Abbey Road, which couldn’t have been more different from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Electric Ladyland marked a significant change for Jimi Hendrix. Unlike the first two albums by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, where producer Chas Chandler tightly managed the recording process, Hendrix was fully in charge on Electric Ladyland. Recording sessions were no longer determined by Chandler’s tight organization and time management, but by Hendrix’s unconstrained perfectionism. Hendrix also repeatedly invited friends and guests to join him in the studio, such Brian Jones (still with The Rolling Stones at the time), Steve Winwood and Al Kooper. This created oftentimes chaotic recording conditions, which eventually led to Chandler to walk out on Hendrix.

Except for some tracks from the documentary At Last … The Beginning, currently, nothing else from the Electric Ladyland reissue is available on iTunes or Apple Music. I suspect it is similar for other digital or streaming platforms. That’s unfortunate and I assume done by design to encourage purchases of the actual box set. Probably for the same reason, I also couldn’t find any YouTube clips of songs from the reissue. The CD version currently sells for $42.39 on Amazon, while the vinyl configuration is going for $98.39. Here’s a fun clip of Eddie Kramer talking about Electric Ladyland and the new box set.

Sources: Wikipedia, Beatles website, Jimi Hendrix website, YouTube

13 thoughts on “50th Anniversary Editions Of Two Iconic Albums Released”

      1. I went all out and got the 6 cd and blue ray set. .. I also want to get the new Dylan Blood on the tracks but will wait a bit for that one..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve been listening to what’s available on Apple Music. While I have a stereo, I don’t have a blue-Ray player and the ability to play surround sound. I can only image how amazing that must sound.

        So while I cannot really hear the great sound in its entirety, I’m still pretty fascinated with listening to the additional studio takes and especially the Esher demos.

        What I had not fully appreciated is how much of the White Album was actually recorded live in the studio with all of The Beatles being in the same room. Frequently, you can also hear them goof around with each other.

        So despite all the tension between them, The Beatles still had the ability to play together as a band and apparently have a good deal of fun in the process. It’s almost mind-boggling to me!

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      3. I forget who said it- probably Paul- that no matter what was going on when they were making music it was usually pretty good feelings. I have the Esher recordings going now- fun stuff.

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  1. I’ve never really caught the White Album bug, but I’m intrigued by the Hendrix release, though the price is steep (even if there’s a lot of stuff on there). Maybe one to grab when the price falls a wee bit…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am a longtime Beatles fan, though my favorite album remains Sgt. Pepper. That being said, I’ve gained a new level of appreciation for the White Album I didn’t have before.

      And, yes, agree on Hendrix reissue and that it’s an expensive proposition at this time. I like Hendrix as well, though he’s more of recent artist I’ve come to more fully appreciate. As such, he’s not comparable to The Beatles.

      I also don’t have the setup at home for 5.1 surround sound, so I couldn’t fully benefit from the improved sound. Of course, this applies to both reissues.

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      1. Aside from Sgt. Peppers, I’ve only ever really enjoyed the red and blue compilations and an old BBC sessions compilation I had. Every now and then I try to get into them, but it just doesn’t click.

        And yeah, I’ve ignored some stuff by artists I like cause there’s stuff like the 5.1 surround stuff that I just can’t use and the price is too high.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hear you. While I would consider myself to be a big Beatles fan, I still pause when it comes to major box sets.

        Apart from my home stereo setup, which doesn’t allow me to take full advantage of the sound improvements, I’m also asking myself how many times would I really listen to the White Album reissue and look at the lovely booklet. It’s hard to justify spending the money.

        I did get last year’s reissue of Sgt. Pepper as double-LP set. Given it’s my favorite Beatles album, that was more defensible. Plus, it also ended up being my first new vinyl in more than 20 years. But even with all of that, it’s been at least six months since I’ve listened to these records!

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      3. Same here. There are a few that have passed me by over the years for the same reasons you mention.

        The Sgt. Pepper release is on my list, cause it’s the only one I connected with. It’s all to do with when I first heard it… I still pull the CD out fairly regularly, but there are always albums I want a bit more.

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