Friday, March 5, 2010

Although Not Perfect, The Genius Of Hendrix Still Shines Through On 'Valleys Of Neptune'

Jimi Hendrix
Valleys Of Neptune
Experience Hendrix

Review by Nightwatcher

Reviewing any posthumous Jimi Hendrix album is a task undertaken with mixed emotions.

As a fan, any new release is waited upon with heightened anticipation, with the hopes that
just possibly there will be a holy grail, something which hasn't been released before
which will allow one to gain heightened awareness and insight into the guitarist's psyche,
illuminating another facet which hitherto was previously buried.

Of course then there is the reality. That being that four decades on from his untimely passing
in 1970, after over a dozen official, literally hundreds of unofficial releases being put onto the
market there's probably just a slightly higher chance of that happening than a Republican
voting for health care reform.

So it goes with the release of the "brand new" release 'Valleys Of Neptune'. Heavily hyped as
being a treasure trove of unreleased tracks, the lead up singles released, of the title track and
a studio recording of "Bleeding Heart", a studio jam of the Elmore James blues classic, didn't
bring any new cosmic revelations, and could easily have been included in any of the previous
albums dropped either by former administrator of the Hendrix recordings, Alan Douglas, or the
current one headed by his half sister Janie.

Not that it's Jimi's fault, mind you. Bear in mind that had he lived, none of this would have
come out most likely in the form found here. But having said that, even though these
recordings - most of which feature the original Experience, three have Billy Cox in place of
Noel Redding on bass, one features Hendrix and other musicians - aren't on par with what's on
the proper original studio albums released before his passing, there's still enough of his genius
which shines through to make this a worthwhile addition to your collection.

A blazing version of "Hear My Train a Comin'", recorded like most of the album in 1969 after the release of ''Electric Ladyland' stands out. As is also the case with the 'Axis : Bold As Love' outtake "Mr. Bad Luck". An early version of "Look Over Yonder", the later version of which was included on 1971's 'Rainbow Bridge', the hard driving rocker has the feel and sound of the early Experience, and easily could have been included in the official release of 'Axis' with no ill effects. On the downside, an instrumental version of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" starts off well, but in the middle breaks down a bit, and the versions of "Stone Free", "Fire" and "Red House" pale in comparison to the originals. Two other instrumentals, "Lullaby For The Summer", with its psychedelic stereo panning and the 12 bar blues "Crying Blue Rain" which ends the album shows plenty of promise, but one can only think how much more the guitarist would have done with them had he the chance.

The most amazing thing is that after so much time, there's actually still enough material left to pull off a for the most part satisfactory album. When you consider all the packages which have come out before, and still there's more, it's astounding how much was put on tape in a span of only three years.

For his part,to give him his due, producer Eddie Kramer has done a superb job in getting these tracks ready for release. The sound is uniformly excellent, the tracks don't sound a bit dated, and as a whole the sequencing is well thought out, resulting in a very pleasant listening experience.

The bottom line here though is whether you should part with your hard earned cash for this album, and ultimately, although not perfect by any means, the answer is yes. Particularly if you already have the original studio albums from '67-70. If however for some reason you don't, do not pass go, do not collect $200.00 - just go as fast as you can and buy 'Are You Experienced', the aforementioned 'Axis' and 'Electric Ladyland'. Those, and the live 'Band Of Gypsys' are where the true genius of Hendrix lies.

1 comment:

Matt Klomp said...

Great review - kind of surprised that more people haven't heard about this yet. Definitely worth checking out, though - the new songs are really interesting and there's some interesting tweaks with some of the classics. Here's the video for "Valleys of Neptune."

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