Tuesday, February 8, 2011

First Rays of the New Rising Sun

Here's something that really annoys me. How people associate Jimi Hendrix with his monster smash hit, "Purple Haze". To many people, the iconic guitar player represents the hippie era of the '60's. The hippie '60's meant drugs. Yeah, we all know that Hendrix died of a drug overdose. "Purple Haze" was about drugs. So therefore, the equation was simple-Hendrix+the '6o's ="Purple Haze" OK, I get it. Well folks, I hate to break it to ya, that is only ONE tune out of MANY great Hendrix tunes out there.

Hendrix was beyond the "Purple Haze" scene. He was a young and talented guitar player with a taste for the blues. His ambitions led him to many hours in the studio, perfecting his craft over many takes of seemingly endless caches of songs. There are stacks upon stacks of music that been stashed away, hidden from the light of day. Much of it has landed up on various "unauthorized" records released after his death. It makes me wonder of where did he find all this time to record so much music in his short lived career and how much is there still left.

Tracking down some of this treasure can be bit of a chore. Hendrix has only released three studio albums, a live one and a compilation during his lifetime. The rest posthumously. Scattered over dozens of "unauthorized' albums under various different names, it's a guessing game to what is authentic or not. Questions arise like who owns the rights to Jimi 's music? Is this what Jimi intended to release? When was this done?

Many of these questions got answered in 1995, when Jimi's father formed Experience Hendrix LLC. Many of the lost and scattered tunes were recovered from various labels and pieced together in their own respective packages. Here I would claim these be the definite Hendrix recordings.

The first of these packages would be the First Rays of the New Rising Sun, released in 1997, is a suburb collection of tunes. Most of it was either done or being worked on in the months prior to his death in 1970. The newly reformed Jimi Hendrix Experience boldly marks their return to full force here. Newcomer bassist, Billy Cox seems to blend well with long time drummer Mitch Mitchell through these recordings. Gems like "Izabella" , "Dolly Dagger" and "Freedom" are catchy and memorable, worthy to be among Hendrix's best work. There is searing guitar work at full ablaze through out this album..."Astro Man", "Beginnings", "Stepping Stone" and "In From the Storm" set my ears on fire! Even the ballad "Angel" gave me the shivers...

There isn't a wasted note on this CD. Not once, I felt this album to feel like a compilation of outttakes, but rather a brand new album from Hendrix. Something that Hendrix intended to release. In the end, I placed it on the ground at my feet and did a Wayne's World "we're not worthy" bow to it. It's that great of an album! Only wish I heard it on the radio instead of "Purple Haze"


TAD said...

Drew: Some of the titles you list were 1st released on THE CRY OF LOVE, Hendrix's supposedly "last" album released in early '71, but even then it was pretty clear that album wasn't precisely what Jimi had in mind.
4 me, Hendrix is "All Along the Watchtower" & "The Wind Cries Mary" & "Crosstown Traffic" -- in short, the songs I like, & if I find more stuff by him I like then I'll adopt them 2. A lot of his "psychedelic blues" stuff I can do without. But the good stuff is timeless....

Anonymous said...

Once again you did a great job on this album. I really like the way you write how you feel about an album. This time you really out did yourself. Jimi Hendrix music is really good. There are a couple of songs that I really don't like. But what you wrote says it all about him.

drewzepmeister said...

Some of the material here can also be found the Rainbow Bridge album as well, Tad.

Thanks anonymous! :)