Review Summary: Hendrix Rises Again...
Guitar players rejoice…their god is back once again.
Almost forty years after his death Jimi Hendrix’s music rises from the ashes once more. With the releasing of the 12-track album “Valleys of Neptune” Sony’s Legacy Recordings Jimi Hendrix Project, which plans to release new Hendrix material every 12 to 18 months for the next 10 years, begins. The 12-track album was produced by Hendrix’s stepsister Janie, John McDermott and Eddie Kramer, who worked on Hendrix’s Are You Experienced and The Cry of Love. The album was said by Janie Hendrix to offer “deep insight” into Hendrix’s musical direction as an artist at the start of the upcoming decade. The last few months of Hendrix’s life were said be periods of suffering and agony, but it won’t be found on this album.
Hendrix is usually regarded as the greatest guitarist of all-time, if not the most influential. From his violent guitar playing from his debut “Are You Experienced” to his softer material on “Axis: Bold As Love,” Hendrix’s work has astounded the music world for over three decades. After a short stint as a guitarist for Little Richard’s band, Hendrix blazed a path of glory that has since been unrivaled, even in his death.
The album can be broken up into three parts: new, unreleased material, covers, and re-mastered tracks of previous singles that Jimi had released in the 1960s. For instance, “Mr. Bad Luck” is pretty much a prelude to the later released “Look Over Yonder” and other songs such as “Stone Free” had been released as B-sides to earlier recordings.
On the two covers done on the album, Hendrix displays his guitar mastery in a terrific fashion. The solo on “Bleeding Heart,” a blues song originally done by Elmore James, is expertly crafted and is one of Hendrix’s finest cuts. It is a true experience to listen to Hendrix furiously play the guitar with reckless abandon. “Sunshine of Your Love,” exhibits Hendrix’s guitar prowess in an almost seven minute instrumental. Eric Clapton will be proud of this effort.
The previously unreleased material are stories in themselves. The title track is a true psychedelic piece that is definitely the best song on the album in terms of lyricism. Hendrix’s masterful guitar playing almost always overshadows his song writing, even though he wrote terrific songs such as Little Wing. “Valleys of Neptune” is a perfect song that highlights Jimi’s expert song writing skills. His other “new” pieces are instrumentals, such as “Lullaby for the Summer” and “Crying Blue Rain.” “Lullaby for the Summer” recalls Hendrix’s work from “Electric Ladyland” and is a much more up-tempo track when compared to the slow, bluesy “Crying Blue Rain.”
While many fans will be most interested in listening to Hendrix’s material they have never heard before, his old, remastered material cannot be overlooked. Most of these songs were released singles or B sides, but this time they are redone, either by changing up vocals or instruments. “Stone Free” no longer possesses that garage rock edge it once had, but instead takes a different approach by adding a more soulful feel to the chorus. “Here My Train A Comin’” sounds very similar to the Hendrix epic “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” in terms of the ferocity yet beauty in Hendrix’s playing and “Fire” is an excellent display of Mitch Mitchell’s drumming.
For avid Jimi Hendrix fans, there is nothing new on this album that they haven’t experienced before. Most likely they have heard a large majority of these songs already, but this time they are in higher quality. Many will be thrilled to see Hendrix focus on a more blues concentrated style of guitar playing than his pervious psychedelic work. Is “Valleys of Neptune” as exceptional and ground-breaking as his classic albums such as “Are You Experienced?” No. Is it still worth the price of purchase? Yes.
This unreleased material will not heighten his status as the guitar god among the guitar immortals. However, this record further raises the old question once again: what could Jimi have done had he lived past 1970?
There is no doubt Hendrix would have continued to blow away the minds of his followers if he lived longer. After all, he continues to amaze now.