Review Summary: A few parts groovy blues, some more parts straight ahead rock ’n roll, and the final ingredient, that twist, the Jimi Hendrix soulfulness that makes you want to dance, or simply stand in amazement as it all comes together in incredible sonic bliss.
There are a few times in my life that are watershed moments; moments so engulfed with good feelings that they’ll be forever burned into my soul. Many times, they involve music. One such moment occurred when I first heard, Jimi Hendrix, South Saturn Delta.
We were on the Atlantic coast; my mind had been properly expanded as I took a seat on a cooling beach. It was America’s birthday, and as rockets began to explode in the darkening sky, someone hit play—out of the speakers came one of the most recognizable guitar tones of all time. It was the soft caress of distortion; the gentle touch of disdain and feedback. I became lost in the ether, suspended in weightless ecstasy as I let the record hold me in orbit. For a little while, maybe it was seconds, perhaps it was eons, the blaring tones of South Saturn Delta guided me about the Universe—it changed my life forever.
South Saturn Delta is a compilation record that was
released posthumously, and it is fantastic from the first chord to the final wailing, scorching guitar shriek that came to define Hendrix’s signature sound. I like to think it would have been his next album, had Jimi not died at the famous (or infamous) age of twenty-seven. I suppose it was his next album, although he never saw it come into fruition.
South Saturn Delta showcases much of the sound that Jimi was moving towards at the end of career—it’s a solid blend of his early songwriting on Experience LP’s, with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, and Band of Gypsy’s sound with the likes of Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Much of the tracks showcase solid, intense jamming that initially became studio outtakes, because they were too long for the likes of any ‘Normal’ LP. But every track is a bonafide gem, with the added kick of horns and bongos on the title track, ‘South Saturn Delta.’
The strongest stretch are tracks three through five. ‘Here He Comes,’ ‘South Saturn Delta,’ and ‘Power of Soul.’ ‘Here He Comes’ is my favorite; it’s got an elongated intro of the some of the finest guitar work in Jimi’s short, but illustrious and mind blowing career.
But there’s something special about this record, there’s simply no weak point. The name South Saturn Delta is right for the record—the word delta is an ode to the Mississippi Delta, an homage to the blues greats that Jimi took so much influence from. But Jimi’s delta was just south of Saturn as he melds his chords and groove into a psychedelic greatness. A few parts groovy blues, some more parts straight ahead rock ’n roll, and the final ingredient, that twist, the Jimi Hendrix soulfulness that makes you want to dance, or simply stand in amazement as it all comes together in incredible sonic bliss.
You can hear every part of Jimi’s arsenal on the record, but more than anything, the record is a solid ode to his Blues roots. South Saturn Delta sees the successful melding of rock and gut-wrenching, raucous blues. In the same way that artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Buddy Guy, followed the great migration North, out of the delta and into Chicago where they plugged their guit-fiddles in and took the blues electric; Jimmy Hendrix, axe already plugged in, took the Blues psychedelic—he successfully made the record that every budding English schoolboy (i.e. The Yardbirds, John Mayal, and Jeff Beck) was trying to make in the sixties.
Other highlights include ‘Little Wing,’ ‘Drifter’s Escape,’ and, the now famous, ‘All Along the Watchtower,’ another ode to Jimi’s hero, Bob Dylan. But again, the record doesn’t have much filler, it is strong all the way through. It’s yet another reminder that Jimi Hendrix was many things, above all, a musician. One who never strayed to far from his axe or the studio. A man who was searching for something; was he searching for answers" Was he making a statement" Or was he simply adding a little beauty to a largely tough and ugly world" Whatever it was that Jimi was trying to do, it is on full display on South Saturn Delta; perhaps the lesson here is not to overthink it, as we let the blistering guitar and rugged blues licks wash all over us. To find our own beaches; to sit back and watch the rockets explode, as we dig our own feet into the sand.