It isn’t often that the place an album is recorded becomes equally — if not more — important than the music made between its four walls. I could name a few off the top of my head that have earned said legendary status: Sun Studios, which famously hosted Elvis, and Johnny Cash; Sunset Studios, where Exile On Main Street and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sound were recorded; Trident Studios, where a couple of Queen albums and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust were recorded; and, of course, Abbey Road. But to this day there is one studio that has retained a significant amount of mystic throughout the years; Electric Lady.
What was originally meant to be a personalized club with a built-in 8 track studio for Jimi Hendrix, became, after some slight conceptual tweaking, a musical nirvana for revolutionary artists alike. Now, nearly 52 years after its big opening, Electric Lady still remains one of the top recording studios in the world. Last year, the studio and Spotify partnered up to deliver an extension to their live singles series. What came out of this extension is a series of EPs titled ‘Live at Electric Lady.’ Nearly a year into this partnership and we’ve already been graced with some pretty solid live albums to fluff up our playlists. To highlight a few stand out performances, here are my favorite Live at Electric Lady EPs — so far.
At this point, I think it’s nearly impossible not to sing Yebba’s praises, and this stands true when it comes to her Electric Lady EP. I didn’t think it was possible, but I might favor this collection over her Tiny Desk performance. It’s all about the atmosphere that the first track, “One More Smile” sets for the entirety of the EP. Overcast, foggy, and mysterious, even the lyrics, which reveal a certain level of wisdom gained in hindsight, perfectly set the scene for the subjects to be discussed in the following tracks.
The second track, which happened to be a cover of John Mayers “Age of Worry” breaks the spell for three short minutes of wholeness and peace. A completely revitalized version of the original track, which Mayer himself willfully approved of, feels especially enchanting thanks to her stunning vocals and an impeccable string section. This is followed by “October Sky.” Subjected to a haunting and nostalgic makeover, this rendition features a well-welcomed bridge sure to send chills down your neck. The EP ends on a quizzical note with “Paranoia Purple.” Slightly off-putting, but enchanting nonetheless, this closer will surely make you want to b-line to this EP every time you revisit her discography.
A little more stripped down than her usual sound, Remi Wolf’s Electric Lady performance gives her previous tracks a new funky and brassy lease on life. Trumpets, jazzy piano bits, and Remi’s chameleon vocals make for an exhilarating and passionate experience. Take her rendition of “Liz” for example. The verses are kept fairly clean, with the exception of the distant sound of buttery trumpet phrases. But as the track continues all these playful pauses and creative piano fills texturize the song in a completely new way.
Her cover of choice was Frank Ocean’s “Pink + White.” A perfect twist on the legendary track, he completely monopolizes the song from beginning to end. From the second verse on, Wolf takes flight, making colorfully passionate circles around the original, giving the already perfect track a glossy finish. Ending on a honky tonk-esque note, she performs “Grumpy Old Man” off her recent album Juno. Opting for half-spoken and syncopated technique for the verses, which progressively grow in ardor, and are sweetly sung choruses, her backing band perfectly meets her half way; brass, keys and guitar galore.
One of the first EPs to appear in the series, Faye Webster's Electric Lady performance enhances the sentiments shared on each of the song's original album recordings. Every audible gasp, half-spoken phrases, and that sweet (sweet) slide guitar contributes to the familiar feeling of longing found across her albums.
For instance, “In a Good Way,” which is featured first on the project, feels a lot more intimate than the original. With her voice — including that gasp at the beginning of the second verse — in the forefront and the lush sound of her backing band filling in the gaps, this version easily tops the original recording. The EP continues with “I know I’m Funny Ha Ha,” which is where that sweet slide guitar comes in, a sick cover of the Fleet Foxes’ “If You Need To, Keep Time On Me” that would easily make my “top covers” list, and an especially dreamy version of “Kingston.” Overall, her electric Lady EP is an irresistibly swoon-worthy live experience well worth a listen.