Considering that Jimi Hendrix only released three studio albums during his lifetime, its amazing how much material has been unearthed during the forty years since his death. Valleys Of Neptune is the eleventh album of new studio material to be released posthumously.
The Legacy Label and the Hendrix Estate has embarked upon what they are calling The Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project. 2010 finds his three lifetime studio albums being reissued as deluxe CD/DVD editions, plus his greatest hits album Smash Hits is being remastered. The gem of this first wave of releases is Valleys Of Neptune which contains seven previously unreleased studio tracks and five more new recordings of some well known songs.
The material was recorded in 1969 after the release of Electric Ladyland using a variety of back-up musicians. While the album may not have a musical cohesiveness, the individual tracks are universally excellent.
The album contains only two cover songs, but both are brilliant. The old Elmore James tune, “Bleeding Heart,” was originally released on 1972’s War Heroes, but here it returns in an extended version at about twice the length. Hendrix remains true to its original style and treats it as a slow blues tune. He gives an incendiary performance on Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” There is no vocal, just Hendrix laying down the guitar licks which was his genius. He takes off from the original structure several times, but always brings the sound back home.
The title track is one of the legendary missing Hendrix songs. He would keep going back to the song but it would undergo a number of changes as he fiddled with it for about a year. Long time drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox join him for this sophisticated and smooth flowing song.
“Stone Free” was first introduced to the world as the flip side of the single “Hey Joe.” This version was recorded during April and May of 1969 and again includes Mitchell and Cox. The sound is much better than its first incarnation. It is the albums lead track and Hendrix’ clear guitar style is immediately recognizable.
Whether its old friends such as “Fire” and “Red House,” or new delights such as “Ships Passing Through The Night,” “Lullaby For The Summer,” or “Crying Blue Rain,” they all present Jimi Hendrix at the top of his game in the studio.Valleys Of Neptune is a worthy addition to the Hendrix catalog and is essential for any collector of his music.