The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Axis: Bold as Love
by David Chiu
2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death, but thanks to the constant repackaging of his music, interest in the guitar legend will never flag. The demand for new music, or to be more accurate, previously unreleased leftover recordings, remains undiminished. In that case, Valleys of Neptune, a new collection of never-before released recordings delivers. According to the co-producer John McDermott’s liner notes, the music on Valleys cover the period between the Experience’s final hurrah and Hendrix’s later collaborations with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox. With the amount of care put into the set and the choice of the cuts themselves, it feels like a brand new experience (pun intended). Other than alternate versions of “Fire,” “Red House” and “Stone Free,” the “new” songs are revelatory for longtime fans: the very spirtual title track; “Lover Man,” with Hendrix’s lyrical guitar playing; a somewhat funky instrumental rendition of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”; and the slow blues of “Hear My Train A Coming.” Not suprisingly, what McDermott described a tumultous period on Hendrix, doesn’t reflect in the dazzling playing whether it’s on Bleeding Heart, or the somewhat trippy jazz of “Crying Blue Rain.” The sound quality on Valleys (featuring the involvement oflongtime engineer Eddie Kramer) is remarkable for its clarity. All in all, Valleys does loving justice to Hendrix’s legacy rather than easily slapping something on without a care or respect to the original recordings.
Coinciding with this new release are the reissues of the Hendrix catalog under the aegis of Sony Legacy, which also includes the three main studio albums: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. Nothing can more said about the importance and influence of those albums, including Axis: Bold As Love. The music on that particular album is timeless: the fiery attack of “Spanish Castle Blues,” the gentle ballad “Little Wing” and the gutsy “If 6 Was 9”; “Bold As Love” ends album with that awe-inspiring coda. You may have that record already as well as the others, but each of these new Legacy editions comes with a DVD documentary that enhances the historical importance of the albums.