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Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune

by Kevin Wierzbicki

At this point not much needs to be said about the talent or style of Jimi Hendrix; the late guitar wizard established himself through innovative and incendiary performance more than forty years ago and the body of work he left behind remains popular and influential. That popularity has caused the release of many albums of dubious quality over the years; dozens of tinny-sounding bootlegs have come and gone as shady "entrepreneurs" try to cash in on the Hendrix name. That's not the case with any of the albums released by Experience Hendrix, a company operated by some of Jimi's heirs that makes sure that fans get products that are up-to-snuff. Now Experience Hendrix has teamed with reissue specialist label Legacy Records to distribute enhanced versions of the most popular Hendrix titles like Are You Experienced, Electric Ladyland and Axis: Bold as Love. And in a move that's a major treat for Hendrix fans and rock historians, the vaults have been scoured to come up with a dozen previously unreleased cuts for Valleys of Neptune. All of the songs here have been heard before but in different forms. For example set opener "Stone Free" is a bit relaxed compared to the familiar version while the take on "Fire" presented here was recorded two years after the original and rocks (believe it or not!) even harder. "Valleys of Neptune" demonstrates the same kind of songwriting and playing that put Hendrix songs like "Crosstown Traffic" on the radio and one can only wonder why the song is just now seeing release in a full-band version. Blues in various forms permeates this collection too; the arrangement of Hendrix favorite "Red House" is traditional while the Elmore James number "Bleeding Heart," with the exception of a brief intro, pretty much has the "blues" removed from it as Jimi transforms it into a rocker. Other goodies include a hot instrumental version of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and a take on "Ships Passing Through the Night" that comes from 1969 and the last-ever recording session of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. No filler tracks or incomplete cuts are included here; every minute has been carefully vetted and listeners will show their appreciation of that effort by giving Valleys of Neptune the repeat spins it merits.

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