Review: “Valleys of Neptune,” Jimi Hendrix
For a guy who only released three or four albums in his lifetime, Jimi Hendrix is certainly more prolific in death. No less than 10 different albums of new studio material have emerged in the 40 years since Hendrix’s death, and today we see the release of the 11th such album, Valleys of Neptune.
It’s part of a joint effort by the Hendrix estate and Sony, cataloging and reissuing everything that Hendrix recorded. Valleys of Neptune contains seven previously unreleased studio tracks and five new recordings of some well known songs.
A lot of this stuff was recorded in 1969 after the release of Electric Ladyland using a variety of back-up musicians. The original Experience (Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass) play on many of the cuts, including “Fire” and “Red House,” cut for Hendrix’s 1967 debut Are You Experienced?
There are also a couple of excellent cover tunes, including an Elmore James blues, “Bleeding Heart,” originally released on 1972’s War Heroes but included here as an alternate, extended version. The fireworks really go off on Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love,” played as an instrumental with Jimi’s guitar pyrotechnics taking center stage.
One of the great “lost” Hendrix tracks, “Valleys of Neptune,” shows up here with a remix that makes it sparkle. Mitchell drums on this one, but they’re joined by Hendrix’s long-time bassist Billy Cox from the Band of Gypsys – it’s a nice signature tune for Hendrix, with typically spacey lyrics and breathtaking guitar runs, easily the best of the unreleased material.
As an album, Valleys of Neptune is naturally not very cohesive: the majority of this material sounds like rehearsals obviously never intended to show up on a commercial release, or at least unpolished early takes. Even so, you can hear the obvious craftsmanship that went into making music back then, a trait sorely lacking on many releases by today’s top rock practitioners. The Hendrix people promise there’s a lot more left in the vault, and I wonder what the quality of that material may be.
At any rate: this is Hendrix, man. If you’ve ever wondered about this guy’s legend, Valleys of Neptune may not be the place to start exploring. But if you’re in the mood for some good, old-fashioned psychedelic rock, put it on and fire up a fatty – this music will certainly take you on a little trip.
Listen: “Bleeding Heart”