Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: Valleys of Neptune by Jimi Hendrix

Article by Larry Rodgers - The Arizona Republic: http://tinyurl.com/yg7hde9

In the 40 years since Jimi Hendrix's death, the various entities controlling portions of his musical legacy have released albums of debatable value ("Crash Landing," "Midnight Lightning," both featuring musicians who never played with Hendrix) and worthy efforts ("Blues," "First Rays of the New Rising Sun"). Put "Valleys of Neptune," in stores March 9 of 2010, in the second category.

The album holds more than an hour of Hendrix music that never has been commercially released, including the tight, soulful title track. The material was recorded during a four-month period in 1969, as Hendrix wound down the original Jimi Hendrix Experience and brought bassist and Army pal Billy Cox into the mix.

Standout tracks include a playful instrumental studio cover of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," a Hendrix concert staple, and an expanded version of 1967's "Fire," with a raging lead that will have listeners shaking their head. Both tracks were recorded with Hendrix's original Experience bandmates, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Cox steps in to help Hendrix remake 1966's "Stone Free," and the song becomes slower and funky, with Mitchell adding a dose of jazz to his drumming. Another concert favorite, "Red House," also is slowed down, with stretches of soft lead work reminiscent of B.B. King before Hendrix cranks things up too much later.

A long-lost version of "Ships Passing Through the Night" shows Hendrix's studio creativity (running one guitar track through a Leslie organ speaker for a swirling sound) but also seems unfocused amid noodling with other effects. Two largely instrumental songs that wrap up the album, "Lullaby for Summer" and "Crying Blue Rain," feel like jam sessions that weren't originally destined for release.

All in all, however, this CD's music, newly mixed by Hendrix's longtime engineer, Eddie Kramer, is a solid addition to the recordings approved by the guitarist's estate.

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