Sunday, February 28, 2010
VALLEYS OF NEPTUNE
Nearly forty years after he crossed into the next dimension, there is an ongoing fascination with Jimi Hendrix. He caught the attention of heavyweights in many genres of music, pulled off miracles with a stomp box and revolutionized rock guitar in the process.
Are You Experienced hit the scene with the force of a grand piano landing on a box of powdered donuts, snapping the minds of countless listeners when it was unleashed in 1967. Light years ahead of everything else at that time, his debut was the envy of many of his contemporaries.
Heavy schedules followed with commitments that pushed him toward the inevitable cycle that has taken out many very talented performers.
Legions of feedback-loving, volume pigs have tried to emulate him, possessing none of his finesse and feel. More than one of his peers has gone on record stating that they could not figure out how he produced those tones, even after studying his technique up close.
Valleys of Neptune is a "new" release, featuring material captured in studio sessions dating from early 1969, with a couple of tracks that were done outside that period. His legacy had been tarnished somewhat by posthumous, grave-robbing, cash-in releases that hit the market in the 70s and continued to appear while the legal issues surrounding his estate were being untangled. The late 90s saw a reversal of this state of affairs, with a faithful restoration of First Rays of the New Rising Sun, an LP he was working on at the time of his death.
Now we get a further sampling of his work. Seven of the twelve cuts here have not left the vaults until now.
1. "Stone Free"
2. "Valleys of Neptune" Previously unreleased
3. "Bleeding Heart"
4. "Hear My Train a Comin'"
5. "Mr. Bad Luck" Previously unreleased
6. "Sunshine of Your Love" Previously unreleased
7. "Lover Man" Previously unreleased
8. "Ships Passing Through the Night" Previously unreleased
10. "Red House"
11. "Lullaby for the Summer" Previously unreleased
12. "Crying Blue Rain" Previously unreleased
Better still that these tapes are being handled in a more respectful manner, especially after years of shoddy repackages that would not have met with the approval of the man himself.
Overall, it sounds pretty solid with nothing standing out as any great departure from what he had previously done.
The point being?
Allegedly, one of his ambitions was to shed the stage persona that he had been growing tired of and delve into big band jazz, following along the lines of Wes Montgomery. Hard to fathom, although his followers might have eventually watched him take a seat on the bandstand amongst a larger group of musicians. Had he lived, this would have made for a startling career shift. Jimi's occasional summit meetings with Miles Davis are especially legendary. The select few that were privileged enough to hear the combination of these two virtuosos, playing behind closed doors for pleasure, were suitably impressed. Again, if there was a tape machine running, it would be quite interesting to hear what they did. Missed opportunity otherwise.
For the hard-core archivists out there, this album may be seen as a bit slight in terms of real surprises. Hendrix was known for tracking quite a bit, bringing in a revolving cast of supporting players to jam and get ideas down. With that in mind, there is hope that more gems may be unearthed for release, showcasing another side of his multi-faceted musical personality.