Valleys of Neptune is a sixty-minute collection of never-before-released tracks recorded during the transition phase of The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968 and 1969. In the course of a dozen cuts, the CD vividly illustrate the restless creative urge of the late guitar icon and augurs well for the next phase of archival releases.
With original engineer Eddie Kramer participating in the production and George Marino mastering, the sound quality retains the depth of the music. While there are a few familiar/previously released cuts here, including "Stone Free" and "Fire," those comparatively conventional hard rock tracks serve to heighten the contrast with the blues and instrumental interplay that dominates the album.
Closing the CD with "Lullabye for the Summer" and "Crying Blue Rain" only emphasizes the artistic progression Hendrix had embarked upon at this point in his career. The man was anxious to transcend the psychedelic image of his early recordings and "Ships Passing in the Night" suggests how he was beginning to incorporate earthier R & B roots (for which bassist Billy Cox was ideal) with which to complement his natural command of the blues. The pure pleasure he took in jamming was simultaneous a means to that end and a joy for its own sake. Hear, for instance, how Jimi, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, along with percussionst Rocky Dzidzornu, take an instrumental romp through of Cream’s "Sunshine of Your Love."
"Red House," "Hear My Train A’Comin’," as well as a tribute to Elmore James called "Bleeding Heart," offer reaffirmation not just of the unmatched intensity of Jimi Hendrix’ guitar work, but his position as an authentic contemporary blues-man. This title song appropriately complements those traditional twelve-bar variations: with rippling electric guitar textures framing images of interplanetary realignment, it sounds, at once, nothing like the blues and everything like the blues.
With gorgeous cover graphics as detailed as the recording information plus the broad historical perspective offered in John McDermott’s essay, Valleys of Neptune is a suitable companion piece to the CD/DVD packages of catalog titles released simultaneous with it (Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland and First Rays of the New Rising Sun). Yet this title stands on its own worthy terms as well, providing not just a glimpse into Jimi Hendrix’ genius, but a wondrous mini-excursion through it.