Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Jimi Hendrix, Valleys of Neptune

There has been no end to the posthumous releases of Jimi Hendrix material since he died in 1970.  Some of it has been good; some of it has been nothing more than a blatant attempt to cash on on Hendrix’ s great fame and extraordinary talent with the release of crappy recordings of studio noodling.  Valleys of Neptune is something different.  The album is built around the last recordings Hendrix made with the original members of The Jimi Hendrix Experience Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums).  Much of the album was recorded in 1969 after the release of Electric Ladyland.  Hendrix was flying high and it looked like there was no end to what he could achieve.

With the exception of “Mr. Bad Luck” which was recorded in 1967  all of the tracks on Valleys of Neptune were recorded in 1969.  Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell play together on nine of the album’s twelve cuts.  Redding and Mitchell rerecorded their bass and drum parts in 1987 on 3 of the tracks, “Mr. Bad Luck”, “Lover Man”, and “Crying Blue Rain”.  Billy Cox, Hendrix’s old friend who replaced Redding when the tension between Hendrix and Redding reached the breaking point plays on three tracks, a hot rendition of “Stone Free”, “Bleeding Heart” and the title track.

Hendrix on a bad day is better than most other guitarists at their peak so it will come as no surprise that his playing throughout Valleys of Neptune is terrific.  The blues based numbers “Hear My Train A Comin'”, “Lover Man” and “Red House” are outstanding.  Redding and Mitchel’s overdubs laid down almost 20 years after the original recordings are nicely mixed with Hendrix vocals and guitar so that they don’t appear out of place or intrusive.  There’s not a bad cut on the CD and it is very nicely produced.

Ever since I had the great good fortune to see Jimi Hendrix and the original Experience live in what were almost perfect circumstances I’ve been at least quietly disappointed by his released recordings and Valleys of Neptune is no exception.  This is a foolish reaction as neither a studio nor a live recording could possibly capture what is was like to be in the room with Hendrix when he was in full flight.  If you are a Hendrix fan Valleys of Neptune is a must-buy and you probably already have it.  If you have any interest in Hendrix’s music and you don’t have Valleys of Neptune, check it out.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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03/23/2010 Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Buddy Guy, Skin Deep

Sometime around 1990 Alligator Records put a promotional tour on the road headlined by Buddy Guy.  I caught the show in a rundown VFW that was called a “hall” but was more like a shack.  It was the kind skin-deepof place where the bar had been been nailed together from 2×4’s and plywood, mismatched straightback chairs and scarred tables were scattered haphazardly about, and the “stage” was a small platform raised six inches off the floor against a side wall.  The place stank of old beer, stale sweat and dead ends.  

I forget who the opening act was.  Lucky Peterson and Kenny Neal combined to deliver a roaring second set that came within an eyelash of setting the place on fire.  When they finished the beer was fresh, the sweat was dripping and there was no end in sight.  The place was hotter than a motherfucker.  Guy was the headliner but it surely looked like Peterson and Neal had taken the crowd as high as it could go.

Guy’s band came on sometime around 1:00 am.  They were hard and tight but there was no Buddy Guy.  Okay, I thought, they’re using the opening where the band does a number and then they introduce the leader.  The opening number hit the break and Guy’s unmistakeable guitar came roaring from . . . from where?  He wasn’t on stage and there wasn’t any dressing room or curtain he could enter from.  Was he crouched down hiding behind one of the amps?  Nope.  People began looking around the club, was he in the crowd?  Nope.  Finally somebody found him.  The son of a bitch was out in the parking lot all by himself ripping off a raging guitar lead that ignited the bonfire that Peterson and Neal had laid.  People went berserk and spilled out the door.  Surrounded by screaming people Guy ramped it up higher.  It was incandescent.

Buddy Guy was 54 years old that night.  But that was then and this is now and now Buddy Guy is 72.  72 with a new record.  Can he still bring it?  Are you fucking kidding me?  He can bring it and take it back home again.  The idea of a 72 year old man singing I’m-a-stud songs seems ridiculous until you hear Guy on numbers like “Out in the Woods” and album opener “”Best Damn Fool”.  Then you think maybe it ain’t so ridiculous, you think maybe you better lock up your wives and daughters.  Guy doesn’t sound “good for his age”, he sounds dangerous.

Skin Deep has attracted attention because of the presence of a number of high profile guests like Robert Randolf, Eric Clapton, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.  The guests fit seemlessly with Guy and his band and they all acquit themselves admirably but the story here is Buddy Guy.  He sings with the voice and conviction of a man a third his age and he can play guitar in circles around almost anyone on the planet.  This cat can play.  One of the nicer features of the CD’s packaging is that it lists the guitar Guy plays on each track so non-guitar playing listeners who may have heard about, say a ’57 Strat or a ’74 Telecaster can link the sound with the guitar.

This is a terrific album from a man who is a national treasure.  The title may be Skin Deep but Guy is coming from deep in the marrow and he’s just as exciting now as he was when he was a youngster playing out in the parking lot.

11/21/2008 Posted by | music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment