Review Summary: If you've heard Hendrix before, you already know what this sounds like. But what's there to complain about?
This just in; Jimi Hendrix has risen from the dead. After the three year acid trip that was Hendrix’s music career, the universe’s greatest guitarist decided to go into hiding for 40 years. In fact, he has probably been laughing at every wannabe prototypical guitarist ever since, cozy from all of the insurmountable hype surrounding his name. In all seriousness though, you have to believe that somewhere in the world at this very moment, some kid is asking his father who Jimi Hendrix was; and the father is responding with, “the greatest guitar player ever.” It would be easy to object to this inference however, for there have been others that have been more technically sound and possibly more influential. Regardless, there is no feasible method to determine such a title, and it would be ludicrous for Hendrix not to be considered.
No matter what your opinion of Hendrix is, one thing is for certain. The man has had an impact like none other, and enjoyed a pinnacle which other musicians do not come anywhere close to. He was the man that facilitated many to set their guitars on fire and unsuccessfully attempt to play with their teeth. It is hard to believe this is the same figure that grew up with nothing, and could be found strumming a broomstick until he received his first guitar at age fifteen. The rest is, well, history. Even prior to becoming a world icon, he had been kicked out of Little Richard’s band for outperforming him, which was an incredible feat at the time. Hendrix has been praised for the past forty years however, for his inconceivable run from 1967-1970 in which he released too many mind-blowing records to count, with several different bands.
So here we are in 2010, and a new Jimi Hendrix album has been released. Who would’ve thought? This new record, “Valleys of Neptune” is a collection of B-Sides, covers, and re-mastered tracks; most of which have not been released to the public previously. This album of “new” material offers conventional and vintage Hendrix, and neither heightens nor harms his glorious reputation. There is an old saying that “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” but in the case of Jimi Hendrix, his trash is better than everyone else’s treasure. “Valleys of Neptune” exemplifies this, for the majority of the record had never made it onto “Are You Experienced,” “Electric Ladyland,” or “Axis: Bold As Love.” Every single track on “Valleys of Neptune” would not be out of place on any of those albums.
“Valleys of Neptune” features both a Cream cover and an Elmore James cover, whose bluesy leads are accentuated beautifully by Hendrix’s frantic and unconventional playing style. His attempt at Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love
is a dazzling display of fretwork; varying from a palm-muted middle section to a wailing, wah-infused conclusion. Hendrix’s work on the one of the most famous riffs and songs of all-time is nothing short of brilliant, and is an intriguing disparity from Clapton’s slow and precise style. Jimi’s trademark wah-pedal is scattered all throughout the record, at times recalling that classic Vodoo Child
sound. The alternative version of “Are You Experienced’s” Fire
does not cease to amaze, with Hendrix’s spastic and unimaginable soloing making up for what are off-putting backing vocals by Andy Fairweather Low. Also jumping on the alternative version bandwagon is Red House
, which was never featured on a Hendrix album, but has been floating around for some time. It’s slowed tempo and extended duration actually creates more room for soloing.
Title track Valleys of Neptune
seems perfectly suited to headline the record, and is merely one of the catchiest pieces that Hendrix had ever written. The instrumentation generates the warm and infectious atmosphere, and the song actually exposes one of Hendrix’s most underappreciated strengths. His songwriting has always been overshadowed by his guitar work, even with lyrical gems Little Wing
and Castles Made of Sand
in his arsenal. Valleys of Neptune
presents the ocean and horizon as symbols, in what is sure to be the most intricately written song on the album. “I feel the ocean is swaying me, washing away all my pains. See where I was wounded? Remember the scar? Now you can’t see a thing, and I feel no pain.”
If you’ve heard Jimi Hendrix at all before, you know exactly what “Valleys of Neptune” sounds like. That is however, nothing to be complaining about. The record is just another sparkling addition to an already storied and shortened music career. One can only imagine what Jimi Hendrix would have done had he lived past 1970; if he could have blown people away for just a while longer. In all fairness to other musicians though, this could have been for the better. Hendrix was never around long enough to soil his reputation, and “Valleys of Neptune” only furthers this assumption.
Valleys of Neptune
Here My Train A Comin’
Sunshine of Your Love