During his creative prime between 1966 to 1970, the late Jimi Hendrix did more for contemporary popular music than Panavision did for motion pictures or the Pentium chip did for home computers.
His tripped-out flights of sonic genius established him as an innovator who opened up musical possibilities that are still being explored by such celebrated record producers as the Dust Brothers (Beck’s “Odelay”), Flood (U2’s “Pop”) and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA.
Hendrix’s guitar wizardry split popular music at the seams, redefining the blues with the distorted sounds of everything from a midnight air raid to a spaceship traveling at warp speed.
It all ended on Sept. 18, 1970, with Hendrix’s drug-related death. But he left reels of unfinished recordings in the vaults of his Electric Lady studio in New York.
These 17 songs are drawn from the music that Hendrix was working on at the time of his death. It presumably would have been the basis of a double album, which he planned to title “First Rays of the New Rising Sun.” While most of the recordings have appeared on other albums, they are brought together for the first time here.
The album is one in a series of planned releases under a new agreement between the Hendrix estate and MCA Records.
The first set of releases includes his three classic albums, on CD for the first time from the original master tapes. The albums--"Are You Experienced?,” “Axis: Bold as Love” and “Electric Ladyland"--have all been remastered by Hendrix’s longtime engineer Eddie Kramer.
The results are remarkable, with a sonic clarity that lets you hear things that you barely noticed on previous versions, such as the background singing and rhythm guitar touches on “Are You Experienced?” For one-stop Hendrix shopping, the mix of hit singles and obscure gems on that debut album make it the one to own.
But the biggest news is the release of “First Rays of the New Rising Sun.” “Freedom,” the first track, sets the stage for the whole album. The song seems to be releasing Hendrix from his previous “rock” constrictions, complete with complex rhythm arrangements that foreshadow the gritty, gutbucket sound of George Clinton’s Funkadelic.
While there’s no way to know how close the album came to fulfilling Hendrix’s musical vision at the time of his death, it showcases the guitarist as a visionary with the talent and confidence to continue remaking pop music in his own image.
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