ELECTRIC LADYLAND PHASING TECHNIQUES

Jimi wasn't pleased with the European pressing of "Electric Ladyland". I thought this was only because the master was duplicated before pressing (not the case with the US version) but there were other reasons.

Jacek Witecki, who is preparing a book about Jimi, sent me these interesting comments :

 

"I didn't have the occasion to hear the original US "Electric ladyland" vinyl pressings (I got only European pressing from the eighties and all the CD releases) but it's important to point that the latest MCA release is the only one that has original "phase effects" present on original US master tape. Jimi himself talked about them in the interview presented in Alan Douglas remastered release booklet (p.7) (strangely the Douglas release itself doesn't have the effects !). He talked about 3D sound and phase effects that were spoiled (removed) in the process of preparing the master for the cutting (in UK only?).

A bit of technical explanation is necessary here. The "stereo phasing effect" heard on "Axis: Bold as Love" is in fact constant slight oscillation of phase (time coherence) of two identical signals (guitar or drums in this case) combined with stereo panoraming. In the recording process you always need a two track (stereo pair) of each instrument because balancing the level of them allows you to "place" the instrument on a specific position in the stereo image (more left, right or centered). "Axis effect" refers mostly to the creation of characteristic "ventriloquist" sound and today, it is available in many guitar  foot pedals. On "Ladyland" we have something different and stunnigly innovative for the time. Jimi and Eddie Kramer used steady (not oscillating) phase shifts (de-synchronising of stereo pair signals). This creates a strange space effect (if you ever misplaced the speaker wires connecting black to red in one speaker you will know what I mean). Sound is hard to localise, it seems to move strangely when you turn your head and it appears out of the line between two speakers, sometimes far left or right, or behind you. When this technique is applied only to chosen sounds on the recording (guitar solo for example) you can hear something close to todays "surround" multichannel sound. This was the 3D sound that Jimi had mentioned.

As far as I know, it was something completely new in the Sixties to use these effects creatively as Eddie and Jimi did. For most of the sound engineers, phase innacuracies were considered to be recording mistake ! Perhaps this is the reason why the effects were removed (phase "corrected") in the cutting preparation process. A few years earlier, one US record company had even sent back to England some masters by The Who, because they thought the guitar feedbacks were erroneous !

Thanks to Eddie Kramer's remaster the effects are present again. On the MCA version of "Ladyland", you can hear what I'm talking about especially on "And The Gods Made Love", "Come On" (guitar part), "House Burning Down" (the solo) and on "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" (the muted wah-wah intro) where the sound is appearing "somewhere", getting closer and finally landing in the right place). I think this was unique recording achievement really worth to be mentioned."

 

Thanks for this interesting information Jacek !

 

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