Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (1997)


Review I bought this album awhile ago, and unfortunately, the first review I wrote was somehow lost in the system. Since I have a poor at best memory, I had to just hunker down, listen to the CD again and do a proper review….

While definitely not the best Hendrix album, it is probably the best posthumous one (that’s in print, at least), as far as studio work goes. Jimi had an obsession with capturing his ideas on record, and this just further exemplifies that obsession. While I’d obviously get his official recordings (AYE, A:BAS, EL, and BOG) and probably a live record or two (Woodstock, Fillmore East), this does prove to be an excellent record for the person who just can’t get enough Jimi…

Much more polished than “South Saturn Delta,” the release that followed “First Rays…”, this album was meant to compile the material that was to end up on Jimi’s fourth studio effort of the same name. While Jimi originally planned to keep recording and produce a second LP to go with the first, his death unfortunately cut that plan short, and record producers were forced to spread out what had been completed over three posthumous, now out of print releases (Rainbow Bridge, Cry of Love, and War Heroes).

What we have now on “First Rays Of The New Rising Sun,” is an attempt to compile the available material onto one disc, in an order as close to Jimi’s original wishes as possible. Unfortunately, any claims that the CD was produced directly from Jimi’s notes is a half-truth at best. No one could have possibly known Jimi’s plans, especially considering Jimi’s distinct style. He knew of a broad range of music, and so tracks may have been altered to give some a bluesy feel, or a jazzy feel.

Despite this, “First Rays of The New Rising Sun,” is still an incredible album, and still worth picking up if you are an intense Jimi-phile like me. Although some tracks weren’t mixed by Hendrix himself, and at least two tracks weren’t the masters that Jimi had been working at, they still provide fantastic insight into one of the most creative minds of the twentieth century. Intensely beautiful tracks like “Belly Button Window,” “Angel” and “Drifting” are separated by heavy rockers like “Ezy Rider” and mild blues/rock tracks like “Dolly Dagger,” and “Izabella.” Throughout, the album retains a sense of “togetherness,” with a feel that most of the songs fit where they are on the CD. It definitely is an intense listening experience, one that cannot totally be felt by just casual listening while performing other tasks. No, instead, invest in a good pair of headphones, turn out the lights and lay still as you take everything in…

While not being perfect, “First Rays” is probably the best of the posthumous Jimi releases, and definitely worth the time and money it may cost you. Even the liner notes are fantastic, including many rare photos, and almost 25 pages of fantastic track descriptions and essays.

If you fancy yourself a Jimi fan, than this record is for you. If you respect Jimi’s work, than this is for you. Get it, it’s probably one of my top 15 favourite CDs…

*(one warning though): If you have a multi-speaker surround sound system, then you might want to invest in a smaller unit. The mixes are sometimes fuzzy or tinny, and sometimes only are audible from a single speaker. Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints.

Review I think it’s important to understand that this is the closest thing to what Jimi had intended to release in 1971 as the follow-up to the seminal Electric Ladyland album of 1968…

Having said that I have to say that I think this is the most impressive material of his career. These are the tightest batch of songs he recorded in that none of them are too long and all have tremendous hooks and content. The performances here are considerably better than past recordings due in part to the fact these are musicians who have played and toured together for successive years and are literally at the top of their game. And it shows!!!

Hendrix’s vocals are more controlled and less gimmicky and he displays a lot more vocal range in general than before. His guitar parts are more structured and intricate. His solos less sloppy and more developed. His overall aura more tightly defined. And let’s face it. Noel Redding wasn’t the most impressive bass player (he was actually a guitar player by trade) and hearing Billy Cox on bass here makes you realize that Hendrix’s material is far more fluid and soulful w/ him in the mix.

Also, the production quality of the overall sound is better than his previous efforts. So much of it was recorded at his newly built Electric Lady Studios the Summer of 1970 and the fact that they were able to utilize the most state-of-the-art and up to date recording equipment is obvious when you hear the results.

It may be silly to say since Jimi Hendrix has become a bigger rock star since his death, but had he lived and kicked-off the decade w/ this release he would have owned the 70’s. Zeppelin? Sure they were huge then but he would have been THE rock star defining the decade, I’m sure of it.

Just have a listen to “Freedom” w/ it’s locked-in beat, searing, white hot guitar licks, and Jimi’s soulful vocal delivery. THAT is rock n’ roll. “Izabella” continues right where “Freedom” leaves off and that’s a good thing because “Freedom” seems way too short. “Dolly Dagger” and “Ezy Rider” are just pure ear candy. “Stepping Stone” has some of the hottest guitar licks ever recorded. Period. Just listen to the outro solo. “My Friend” is a pleasant surprise w/ it’s Dylan-esque vocals and overall vibe. “In From The Storm” slams you over the head from the first notes of the guitar riff w/ it’s dramatic hard rock delivery. The CD ends w/ the mellow blues of “Belly Button Window” and it’s incredibly creative and sensitive lyrics from the perspective of drummer Mitch Mitchell’s then unborn child.

I realize this was originally compiled and released in CD form back in 1997, but this is the first I’m hearing it and I have to say I’m completely blown away….

April 29, 2013 - Posted by | Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun |

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