When Jimi Hendrix was alive, he released three studio albums. Post-humously, another ten popped out. Most of these haven’t been much more than shameless cash-ins by those still living, trying to make an extra buck off of the music of the dearly departed. ‘Valleys Of Neptune’ is the most recent of these, and also arguably the best, although it is not a studio album in the conventional sense. Instead, this is a collection of previously unreleased studio material, and while the music here still sounds a little more familiar to a Hendrix listener than would have desired, this is a nice dose of material from a guitarist we lost all too soon.
In their efforts to create a follow-up to the highly acclaimed ‘Electric Ladyland’, the Jimi Hendrix Experience laboured on these tracks shortly before Hendrix met his untimely demise. As a result, a lot of the music heard on ‘Valleys Of Neptune’ was left unfinished, and this is evident through inconsistent production and a more raw feeling than usually heard on a Hendrix release. As far as the style and songs themselves go, this is standard Hendrix fare, with many of his classics poking up here in the forms of alternate takes. There are a handful of songs here that weren’t heard on the original albums, but much of the work here are either covers of other artists, or fresh renditions of Hendrix’s material. As Hendrix was prone to do with his covers, he does not merely play another artist’s material, but rather puts his own convincing and unique spin on them. ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ for example is made into an instrumental psych rock jam. As for the ‘new’ versions of his existing music, they are not much special- they are made different from the originals, but usually this only amounts to a difference in mixing and dynamics in the performance, rather than legitimately new ideas coming through.
The title track ‘Valleys Of Neptune’ is arguably the most relevant track here, being one of the most sought-after recordings of Hendrix’s before this album came out. It is a bluesy track with some great guitar ideas; he shows his skill with the instrument within the context of the songwriting, rather than relying on a solo to strut his stuff. For lovers of Hendrix’s guitar solos, there are plenty to choose from here, and from a historical context, it is pretty amazing what the man was doing. There is aggression in his playing that was not usually heard in popular music of the time. All the same, there is no getting past the fact that this is a work that is defined by its incompletion; Hendrix himself would not have been satisfied with the way most of these recordings have ended up, and perhaps he would not have even wanted them heard to begin with. The charm of his music is here though, and while this ultimately adds little to the legend of Jimi Hendrix, it’s nice to hear some ever-so-slightly fresh material from him.
1. Stone Free (3:45)
2. Valleys Of Neptune (4:01)
3. Bleeding Heart (6:20)
4. Hear My Train A Comin’ (7:29)
5. Mr. Bad Luck (2:56)
6. Sunshine Of Your Love (6:45)
7. Lover Man (4:15)
8. Ships Passing Through The Night (5:52)
9. Fire (3:12)
10. Red House (8:20)
11. Lullaby For The Summer (3:48)
12. Crying Blue Rain (4:56)