Valleys of Neptune
No way could a “new” Hendrix album have the impact of the three studio records he made when he was alive, but Valleys of Neptune comes close. The opening salvo in another Hendrix revival program, the album collects a gang of choice late Experience tracks along with several featuring Billy Cox, the bassist in Band of Gypsies, Hendrix’s last — and more militant — group. The production is crisp and animated, the performances fiery, Hendrix’s grip on the blues and probing expansions of rock unparalleled. Fans of the guitar era will revel in the Experience’s long, raw take on Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” an alternate version of “Stone Free” and “Lullaby for the Summer,” a fierce instrumental workout featuring Hendrix at his most abstract and driven. At the same time, blues lovers will lose themselves in “Hear My Train A Comin’,” a screaming workout that sounds like a prelude to “Voodoo Chile,” and the title track, an otherworldly trip featuring Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and the percussionist Juma Sultan. Rock and blues fuse kinetically on the proudly assertive “Lover Man,” a long, sinuous track that affirms the power of the Experience even in 1969, when differences between Hendrix and bassist Noel Redding became irreconcilable. Hearing this brings back a time when hard rock was about mojo rather than excess. —Carlo Wolff
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