Valleys Of Neptune
Out May 8th
Valleys Of Neptune is the next in the line of posthumous releases from the exalted guitar great and consists of 60 minutes of unreleased recording, laid down as the follow up to Electric Ladyland during one of Hendrix's last ever sessions.Here's our track by track analysis...
The album opens with a re-recorded version of the Are You Experienced? track and was the first song that Hendrix wrote after his arrival in England. Recorded in New York in April and May 1969, it is the first of three tracks to feature new bass recruit Billy Cox, Hendrix's old army friend. This version is missing the driving cowbell of the 'Experience original and adopts a slightly faster tempo, giving it a 'live' feel that underpins the whole record. With falsetto backing vocals in the chorus taking the lead and an extended outro, it's a good pointer of what to expect from the rest of the album.
Valley Of Neptune
The first single taken from the collection is classic Hendrix with it's psychedelic imagery and signature riff-laden refrain. With a progression not a million miles away from All Along The Watchtower in style and again with a truly 'on-stage' feel, this is a standout track.
Bleeding Heart (Elmore James Cover)
Jimi mutters, 'I think I'll start up like Elmore James,' and so begins their storming cover of the blues classic. It sounds like the tune was made for him and his soulful delivery does more than a little justice to the original. A brief wah lick kick-starts an unruly, growling fuzz-tone solo, before the band lock back into the groove. A flurry of vocals mimic his strat note for note and then it's back to a mammoth wailing solo that introduces the last gospel-tinged verse.
Hear My Train A Comin'
This is the original recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience original and while it's slightly shorter, lacks the iconic intro of thre famous version and features a far less overdriven guitar sound, it calmly makes up for it with some gorgeous vocals that shadow his fingers' every move. Some of the most expressive fretting on the entire record - the roots of a Hendrix favourite.
Mr. Bad Luck
Essentially Look Over Yonder from the South Saturn Delta compilation with a different name, this is a short bluesy number with Jimi displaying a playful tone in hi vocal approach. This version was laid down durin the Axis: Bold As Love sessions. The song also appears on 1990s' Lifelines compilation.
Sunshine Of Your Love
Hendrix replaces the vocals of the original with his familiar wah guitar for this cover of the Cream staple. Interestingly Clapton and Bruce began forming this song in their minds having seen Hendrix play in London in 1967, possibly explaining why he seems so at home with it. The song also appears on many of the icons' set lists throughout '68 and '69. With it's scratchy breakdown, some frenetic percussion driving it along and ending with the gradual slowing grind, it's raw but infectious.
Also known as Here He Comes and Here Comes YOur Lover Man, a version of which also appeared on South Saturn Delta and on The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set, this track was performed live at Woodstock in 1969 and at the infamous Isle Of Wight festival in 1970. A solid groove backs up some expressive riffing for an extended intro that reveals the icon's prowess to it's max, before trademark vocals once again mimic the guitar line. More intensive soloing follows as the song closes on a long fade.
Ships Passing In The Night
Another premiere on the record, this kicks off with a quirky blues lick backed up with a heavily chorused guitar that aptly support the heartfelt, yearning vocal. Ending on Jimi's solitary wailing guitar, this is a psychedelic and impassioned new addition to his back catalogue.
A re-recorded version of the Are You Experienced? classic, Fire was subsequently released as a single in 1969 and was often the band's live opener. Here we have an unrefined take on the well known version with an exposed feel, providing an interesting incite into the song's development with it's extended solos and upfront, rough edge.
This slow burning blues number, surfacing on Are You Experienced? and re-recorded here, is testament to Hendrix's adaptability as a guitarist and contains some of the best soloing he has ever committed to tape, all pushed centre stage by the distant reverb-laden vocals. Originally inspired by his first love, Betty Jean Morgan and the flat where he first came accross Keith Richards' girlfriend, Linda Keith, this track is one of his more traditional cuts. The version that appears on 1969's Smash Hits compilation includes an electric guitar tuned down by Noel Redding to imitate a bass.
Lullaby For The Summer
Lullaby For The Summer is billed as another first outing, although a similar track appears on 1971's posthumous compilation, First Rays Of The New Rising Suns as Ezy Rider. A jaunty intro leads to octaved riffing, some far off echo guitars provding an eerie backing and staple Hendrix licks all glues together in what is by far the most experimental piece on the album. Sounding more like an extended jam than a song per se, but fascinating nonetheless.
Crying Blue Rain
This is a stripped down bluesy jam, with Hendrix's off-the-cuff oohs and aahs entwining with a relaxed clean guitar, while Mitch Mitchell hammers out a roomy beat that gradually intensifies to a climatic, albeit starkly recorded exit.All in all, Valleys Of Neptune is almost exclusively versions of tracks that are already avaliable. The interest here lies in the exposed nature of the recordings and in their loose, live feel. While undoubtedly a valuable insight, it's more suitable for the true connoisseurs of Hendrix's material - those truly interested in the development of his style, form and ideas in this elusive 'missing period between albums.