Jimi Hendrix – Valleys of Neptune

January 01, 1970

(Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings)




Despite releasing just three studio albums while he was
alive, Jimi Hendrix has one of the biggest catalogs in rock history, with
dozens of live performances, outtakes and remasters appearing and disappearing
from print. Often thrown together haphazardly, those albums didn’t serve the
Hendrix legacy well.


Now, his label and his family are hoping to change that by
reissuing deluxe editions of his three original albums – Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland –and
the album he was working on at the time of his death (First Rays of the New Rising Sun). But the biggest news for Hendrix
fans is a fifth CD, Valleys of Neptune,
that includes never before released studio recordings. Most of the material on Neptune was recorded in 1969, as the
original Jimi Hendrix Experience was breaking up (some of the later tracks on
this album feature Billy Cox on bass, replacing Noel Redding) and Hendrix was
beginning to add more funk and R&B to his blues-based sound, something that
would come to full flower soon in his Band of Gypsys.


While the band may have been in the process of splitting
apart, it’s in fine form here, blazing through previously unreleased songs like
the title track and “Ships Passing Through the Night,” as well as versions of
well-known songs like “Fire” and “Hear My Train A-Comin'” that serve as studio
counterparts to the expansive renditions of these songs that Hendrix had worked
up for the stage.


This is Hendrix in his prime – on fire technically and
creatively. Anyone wondering why he’s still considered the greatest guitarist
of all time need look no further for proof. These aren’t scraps dug up by
people trying to make a buck off a legend. Many of these tracks full-fledged
songs that Hendrix simply hadn’t decided what to do with. The others are
rehearsals for a major concert at Royal Albert Hall that was meant to be a
theatrical film.

As with most Legacy reissues, Neptune sounds great and comes
with extensive photos and liner notes that give the stories behind the songs
and the sessions that produced them. (All of the other Hendrix reissues also
come with DVDs with newly-created documentaries that offer fans additional
insight into the making of the album and include interviews with Experience
band members. Neptune doesn’t.)  


If there’s one flaw with Valleys
of Neptune
it’s that it doesn’t hang together as an album as well as the
rest of Hendrix’s studio catalog. More than anything else that has to do with
the inclusion of alternate versions of songs you’ve heard before. (It’s hard to
imagine Hendrix would have released another studio version of “Fire” – no
matter how good – three years after releasing the first one). But that doesn’t
make it any less enjoyable or important, either as a document of a transitional
period in Hendrix’s short career or simply as some of the best music ever


If Neptune is a must-have, the other reissues are more problematic. If you bought the last
round of reissues, the DVD, remastering and liner notes probably aren’t enough
reason to open your wallet again. But if you’re still holding on to earlier
versions of the CDs – especially the horrible sounding ones from the ‘80s – or
haven’t yet replaced your old vinyl, you’ll be very happy with these new


“Here My Train A-Comin'” “Stone Free” HAL BIENSTOCK




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