Jimi had been dead nearly forty years when the family switched up their licensing yet again. A new deal with Sony Legacy worldwide meant snazzy new digipack editions of the three Experience albums, plus several of the MCA titles from the ‘90s. And of course, they also offered something “new”.
Valleys Of Neptune attempts to present a possible follow-up to Electric Ladyland, focusing mostly on material recorded in 1969 with the original Experience. Because technology had advanced to perform all kinds of magic, and because the Experience was splintering at the seams, such an album would not have existed in this form. Several tracks are re-recordings of earlier material, showing off how they’d developed on stage over time, and three even include overdubs added by Noel and Mitch in 1987. That means we have further variations on “Stone Free”, “Hear My Train A-Comin’” (both previously cannibalized in the mid-‘70s), “Fire” and “Red House”—each with their own charms, but “definitive”? Hardly, especially when they fade mid-song. “Bleeding Heart” was tried several times that year, and this one is tight and funky.
The title track promises buried treasure, being an unreleased song, and it’s pretty good. However, it matches a 1970 Billy-and-Mitch take with a vocal from nine months earlier. Still, this is what purists call an “out-fake”. “Mr. Bad Luck” is an earlier version of “Look Over Yonder”, just as “Lover Man” doesn’t have its “Here He Comes” subtitle. (Both were overdubbed in 1987; negligibly superior versions are on South Saturn Delta.) A lengthy instrumental version of “Sunshine Of Your Love” includes a conga break and a bass solo to fill up the better part of seven minutes. A title like “Lullaby For The Summer” suggests something entirely different to the raucous riffing it actually contains, while “Ships Passing In The Night” is a sloppy precursor to “Night Bird Flying”. Finally, “Crying Blue Rain” begins like another slow blues, with some “amen” vocalizing along the lines of “Power Of Soul”, eventually picking up speed and fading out. (If you bought the CD at Target, you also got a de-Douglased “Trash Man”, plus an Experience jam titled “Slow Version”.)
Thanks to the aforementioned technological magic, everything on Valleys Of Neptune sounds terrific. But each installment of release-worthy studio tracks only muddies the picture further, ultimately sinking the attempt to create a hypothetical “lost album”. The world will never know what he might have done with all these recordings; luckily the above-average quality of it all makes it worth hearing.
Jimi Hendrix Valleys Of Neptune (2010)—3