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Valleys of Neptune: like being there, in the studio, with Jimi Hendrix

March 9, 2010

Every take was a virtuoso performance. No wonder Neil McCormick adores a new album of lost versions.

Jimi Hendrix
Room for improvement: Jimi Hendrix’s fascination for the studio ensured a treasure trove of material

Should we care about a supposedly new Jimi Hendrix album, principally comprising studio versions of live favourites and a couple of leftover originals not deemed good enough to previously crop up on any of the multitude of posthumous albums bearing his name? The short answer, perhaps surprisingly, is yes.

Forty years after his death, Hendrix might just be a face on a T-shirt, celebrated for his colourful image and short dramatic life – the stuff of rock myth. But that iconography has been effectively reinvigorated for successive generations because the music itself is so unsurpassed that it always sounds alive and of the moment.

Hendrix released only three albums in a short burst of creativity between 1967 and 1970, but such was the mercurial brilliance of his live performances and his fascination with the studio that he left behind a treasure trove of material. It hasn’t always been treated with the greatest diligence and respect but, since the Hendrix estate wrested control of the master tapes from producer Alan Douglas and Warner/Reprise records in 1995, standards have risen.

The best of the posthumous albums is the 1997 double set, First Rays of the New Rising Sun, a serious attempt to compile the funk-flavoured psychedelic epic Hendrix was working on at the time of his death. That, too, gets a deluxe reissue by Sony this week and should constitute an essential part of the Hendrix canon, alongside Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland.

Read more at: In the studio with Hendrix

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