Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jimi Hendrix Valleys Of Neptune

Everyone has their own opinion as to who the greatest guitar players in the world are.  Everyone’s list is different.  Some will say Jimmy Page, or Clapton or even Stevie Ray Vaughan.  If you poll the greatest guitarists in the world as to who the greatest of all time is, they will likely tell you that their pick is the man for whom this review is written.  That man is the legendary James Marshall Hendrix.
In the few short years that Jimi graced us with his music, he managed to redefine how people think about music played on the electric guitar.  Hendrix is rock and blues and soul and funk all rolled into one and of course backed by some of the most prolific musicians that anyone had heard up to that point.  The original Jimi Hendrix Experience featured Jimi backed up by Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.  Eventually Redding left the lineup and was replaced by Billy Cox on bass in both the Experience and in Band of Gypsies.  This could simply be a history lesson on Jimi Hendrix, however this review has purpose.  Everyone has heard Jimi’s classic albums so to rehash Electric Ladyland or Are You Experienced would simply be a lesson in futility since everyone has their own ideas of these albums.  So why is Jimi Hendrix relevant today for this review?  In  2010, Jimi Hendrix’s estate released a collection of songs that were to be included in Jimi’s next studio effort.  U fortunately he died before he could present them to the public, however these songs were finally realeased as a full length LP titled Valleys Of Neptune.  Featuring both of the lineups of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi presents songs on this album that are both familiar and new at the same time. 
Clocking in at just a little over 45 minutes, Hendrix fans were delighted to hear that not only did the material sound fantastic, it was completely contemporary sounding, proving to everyone once and for all just how far ahead of his time he was.  Opening with a new rendition of Stone Free the listener is immediately shown that they are not going to be listening to the same classic versions of songs that made Jimi Famous.  Other classic tracks have been reworked here such as Red House and Hear My Train a Comin.  Each of these tracks presenting them in a new way but with a fluidity and feel that is as natural as the originals.  The bass and drums are strong and build a strong foundation that Jimi uses to take the listener on a journey like no other musician can.  The most sought after song of all of Jimi Hendrix’s unreleased catalog, Valleys of Neptune, is officially released for the first time on this release.  The song is simply perfect even in the unfinished version that appears on the album. 
This album was released as a limited edition numbered vinyl pressed on 200gram vinyl.  This record is thick and the grooves are cut deeply providing a solid surface for Jimi’s soaring guitars, and of course the rhythm section of the Experience so strong that no other rock band of the time would have been able to handle them.  The vinyl spinning for this review is number 329 of 10,000 that were released worldwide.  It is a double LP in a gatefold sleeve with each record in heavy plastic sleeves.  The complete liner note book is a 11”x11” 8 page booklet with essays about the release of this project.  Jimi’s original sound engineer worked on this project to insure that it sounded as good as it possibly could. 

Side by side comparison of this album is tough.  Usually the vinyl will sound better when played side by side with the cd.  In this case, they are a wash.  This is not a bad thing for vinyl lovers, but rather a good thing for cd lovers as the cd was made from the vinyl master instead of a completely different master being made for the vinyl.  CD listeners, you can hear the dynamics of the vinyl without having to find an out of print and expensive copy, though if you wish to do so, don’t let me stop you.  No matter how you listen to this album, listen to it.  There was only one Jimi Hendrix and for the first time in many many years, a new album of original Hendrix material was released to the world. 
If you are a fan, get it…if you aren’t a fan, this is a great time to start and find out what the Jimi Hendrix Experience was all about. 

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