Their determination to rectify all wrongs meant that the catalogs were pared back to the basics: the original three Experience albums, newly remastered (again) and supervised by Jimi’s preferred engineer Eddie Kramer. Band Of Gypsys would remain in print, having been approved by Jimi in his lifetime, but anything released after that (with the exception of the excellent Blues compilation) was deleted so the Estate could start fresh. Their first strike was replacing the controversial Voodoo Soup with what is now the final accepted version of his fourth album. Based on a handwritten sketch of three possible album sides out of four, First Rays Of The New Rising Sun reverts for the most part to the original Cry Of Love concept, using all of that album’s songs and mixes. Interspersed are four tracks from Rainbow Bridge and three from War Heroes, making for a more inclusive view of those leftovers.
Still, just as with Cry Of Love, the similarity of a lot of these songs makes it tough to tell them apart at first, especially when tracks like “Freedom” and “Izabella” are placed back to back. Likewise, “Room Full Of Mirrors”, “Dolly Dagger” and “Ezy Ryder” should satisfy anyone seeking more cowbell. It’s nice when things like “Angel”, “Drifting” and “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” shift the tempo, and ending with “Belly Button Window” is the smart move.
We state all this in full recognition that the learned Hendrix scholar can’t fathom how anybody could confuse these songs with each other. To counter, we also doubt that anyone would prefer any permutation of a possible fourth album over any of the three Experience albums. The point is, it’s all conjecture, and anything Jimi might have finished, had he got around to it instead of filling up tape after tape, would likely trump anyone else’s best guess, however educated.
Unlike its stepsibling of two years before, there’s nothing “new” on First Rays Of The New Rising Sun; rather, it’s yet again somebody’s mix tape version of the best of the official leftovers. Everyone’s version would be different, and we’ve yet to see a decent defense of “My Friend”. Since they used all of it anyway, a simple two-fer of Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge would have been ideal, but wouldn’t fit on a single CD, so that solution doesn’t work for the industry. With the Estate firmly in control, they decreed that this sequence would become the accepted standard into this century—though even their speculation would continue in other ways.
Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (1997)—3½