News Release: “Also coming is the reissue of 1997’s South Saturn Delta which features selections from the initial — and long out of print — ’70s Hendrix collections Rainbow Bridge, War Heroes, and Loose Ends. The album is notable for including tracks from all of Hendrix’s bands — including both versions of the Experience, Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, and the Band Of Gypsys. South Saturn Delta will be released on CD, digital download, and double-12-inch vinyl.”
Since the Experience Hendrix posthumous compilation South Saturn Delta is about to be re-released on CD & vinyl I thought I’d take a look back at this underrated and often overlooked album.
Originally released in fall 1997, SSD was the second “new” compilation disc released by the new administrators of the Hendrix estate (Janie Hendrix and co.). I remember being thrilled by the release and couldn’t wait to hear it. Since it featured tracks from the long deleted Rainbow Bridge, War Heroes and Loose Ends plus other rarities. I thought the album cover was corny and hated the title. But the music inside was all that mattered.
SSD wasn’t critically acclaimed and didn’t sell that well. Blender Magazine listed it as one of the official Hendrix albums to “be careful” of because it was so uneven musically. However, I’m glad Sony/Legacy is reissuing it because it contains some indispensable material unavailable anywhere else.
LOOK OVER YONDER
The average music fan is probably thinking “Man, not another ‘Look Over Yonder!'” but this version is different than the one found on Valleys Of Neptune & West Coast Seattle Boy. It was recorded in the fall of 1968 and would have definitely been included on the 4th Experience studio album, had they ever finished it.
A nice, if way too short, instrumental take of this Axis: Bold As Love classic.
HERE HE COMES (LOVER MAN)
The definitive version of a song Jimi attempted over a dozen times in the studio throughout his career. The opening riff is lifted from Jimi’s live version of “Killing Floor.” Jimi’s amazing, soaring solo makes this track unforgettable.
SOUTH SATURN DELTA
Recorded during the sessions for Electric Lady, features Jimi & Mitch with an unknown horn section. I first heard this instrumental on 1990’s “Lifelines” box set and was impressed. Don’t like the mix here as much. But it’s nice to hear the complete version.
POWER OF SOUL
A Band of Gypsys era classic that was hacked to death on 1975’s Crash Landing. The live version is a lot better but it’s great to hear the unaltered original track. One complaint is the intro to this song goes on way too long. It feels like 2 minutes before Jimi hits the first verse.
MESSAGE TO THE UNIVERSE (MESSAGE OF LOVE)
Probably the weakest track on this collection. However it’s nice that they included something from Jimi’s Gypsy Sun & Rainbows period.
A great instrumental originally released on 1972’s War Heroes. Jimi’s guitar/keyboard effects are incredible.
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER (alternate mix)
I remember Eddie Kramer mentioning this 4 track stereo mix in his “Setting The Record Straight” book. I really can’t tell much of a difference and prefer the EL version.
THE STARS THAT PLAY WITH LAUGHING SAM’S DICE
Originally released back in 1967 in the UK as B side to “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp.” A fun little track featuring some great guitar work from Jimi. This is a much improved stereo mix.
Another classic instrumental piece from War Heroes. Noel Redding was originally credited with having written this track.
The true “rare and never heard before” track. Recorded around the time of “Little Wing” this is a true gem. A very early demo of “Angel.” The version released 3 years later on the Purple Box set features the missing intro and a stereo mix. Hopefully EH will include the complete version here but I doubt it.
My favorite version of this Elmore James cover. A great lead off track on War Heroes. Unfortunately gets kind of lost in the mix here.
This track became legendary in my mind because up until 1995’s Voodoo Soup it was impossible to find. Rainbow Bridge had been out of print for 20 years so “Pali Gap” became this huge mystery. Trying to guess what it even sounded like. Turns out it is a great instrumental. Doesn’t fit well here though. Should have been included on First Rays instead of “Beginnings.”
Another Bob Dylan cover. I prefer the mix on “Lifelines” to this one. Still a great song though. Love the lyrics and Jimi’s impassioned singing and guitar plaing.
They saved the best song for last. When I first bought SSD I feared this was the awful version of “Midnight Lightning” from the 1975 album. Turns out to be a solo rendition of the song from Jimi with some amazing lyrics and heartfelt singing. A true rarity, I’ve always thought this would have worked better as an album closer on First Rays than “Belly Button Window.”
In reality, SSD is really a “loose ends” album. Compiling leftover tracks from Rainbow Bridge, War Heroes & Loose Ends with little rhyme or reason. There are some true gems in here though. It works better as an Anthology type overview of Jimi’s short recording career than the recent box set. Since every period & lineup is covered. Definitely recommended listening, it’s just a shame Sony/Legacy couldn’t throw in a couple more “rarities” on the April reissue
Review Capsule: Definitely worth buying if you don’t already own it. The April reissue will offer absolutely nothing new so I’d save your money.
South Saturn Delta is a posthumous Jimi Hendrix album compiled by the Hendrix estate that consists of material such as demo tapes, unfinished takes, previously released material that Hendrix had been working on prior to his death in 1970.
When the Hendrix family acquired the rights for Jimi’s catalog in 1995, they signed a contract with MCA Records (predecessor to the Universal Music Group) to release compilations of rare or newly discovered material. The first album that resulted of this contract was First Rays of the New Rising Sun, which was released in 1997 and was an attempt to rebuild the album left unfinished at Hendrix’s death. South Saturn Delta followed it some months later and is a collection of unreleased material. The track list includes tracks from out-of-print albums such as Rainbow Bridge (“Look Over Yonder”, “Pali Gap”); War Heroes (“Bleeding Heart”, “Tax Free”, “Midnight”); and Loose Ends (“The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice”, “Drifter’s Escape”) along with new mixes of songs (“All Along the Watchtower”).
“Look Over Yonder” is an outtake from 1968 featuring the original Experience line-up. The incorrectly tagged “Little Wing” is a demo tape performed solely by Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell and musically identical to “Angel”. “Here He Comes (Lover Man)” is a well known Hendrix concert staple song that never made it to any of his albums. “South Saturn Delta” is a horn-laden funk-jazz song while “Power of Soul” and “Message to the Universe (Message to Love)” are studio versions of two Band of Gypsys tracks, the latter performed by Hendrix’s Woodstock band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. “Tax Free” is a studio recording of the song written by the Swedish instrumental duo Hansson and Carlsson, occasionally played on stage by Hendrix. “All Along the Watchtower” is the same take that appears on the Electric Ladyland album, but this one is the earlier mix by Chas Chandler.
The stereo mix of “The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice” (originally the B-side to “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”) is taken from the Loose Ends album, which was released in 1974 in Europe and Japan. “Midnight” is an instrumental song from the Electric Ladyland sessions. “Sweet Angel” is an early demo version of the song “Angel” featuring Hendrix using a primitive drum machine (the original tape had become slightly damaged some years back, but this was the only source for this song). “Bleeding Heart” is a jam based on an old blues song that appeared in 1972 on War Heroes and in 1994 on Blues. “Pali Gap” is an instrumental. “Drifter’s Escape” is a Bob Dylan cover that also appeared on Loose Ends. “Midnight Lightning” is a demo tape of Hendrix’s delta blues song featuring Hendrix alone tapping his foot to keep time while playing.
Shortly after the Hendrix family reacquired the rights to Jimi’s catalog, they signed a long-term deal with MCA Records and pulled many of the compilations of unreleased material and rarities off the shelves, with the intent of re-releasing the material in better collections.
First Rays of the New Rising Sun, an attempt at assembling Hendrix’s uncompleted last album, was the first release from Experience Hendrix LLC, and it was followed months later by South Saturn Delta, a collection of rarities — all but one of the 15 tracks were never officially released in the U.S. — that spans his entire career. Its intent is to capture the full range of Hendrix’s music through an alternate history, and it works pretty well. Among the highlights are tracks from the War Heroes and Rainbow Bridge Concert albums (“Look Over Yonder,” “Tax Free,” “Midnight,” “Pali Gap,” “Bleeding Heart”), “Sweet Angel” (an early version of “Angel”), an instrumental “Little Wing,” a solo take on “Midnight Lightning,” and a studio version of “Message to the Universe (Message to Love).”
There are also alternate mixes of “All Along the Watchtower,” “Power of Soul,” “Drifter’s Escape,” “South Saturn Delta,” and “The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice.” It’s an intelligently sequenced, listenable collection of some of the very best outtakes and rarities from Hendrix, and is another sign that Experience Hendrix LLC’s restoration of Jimi’s catalog will be smart, stylish, and logical. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide