Hendrix' Family Does Jimi Proud

Jimi Hendrix - South Saturn Delta
(MCA Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix' musical crypt has been robbed and pilfered so many times since his untimely death 27 years ago that the thought of another "new" release seems to smack of yet another cash-in from greedy record execs. Let's face it, the man released only four studio albums within three years while he was alive, albeit 4 highly influential albums that were dimensions ahead their time. Since then a few fine collections of live material and studio outtakes have surfaced (most notably Live At Winterland and Radio One), but for the most part each new release since his death, especially in the 70's and early 80's, has been a mish-mosh of cutting room floor fodder.
Now that the Hendrix family has secured control of his musical estate from Alan Douglas, the reining producer and cheif curator of Hendrix' music for the past 20 years, they are now trying to do Jimi's musical legacy proud with their new family-owned record company, Experience Hendrix.
Earlier this year the Hendrix family faithfully reconstructed what was to be Jimi's final project before he died, First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. Although all of the material on it was previously released throughout different seventies hodgepodge albums, First Rays was a success in the fact that it maintained the integrity of Hendrix' releases when he was alive.
Now just months after the release of First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, the Hendrix family has compiled their second album of Jimi's music, South Saturn Delta.
While not quite as focused as First Rays and offering only slightly more previously unreleased material for the Hendrix completest, South Saturn Delta is, nonetheless, a fine collection of rare demos, alternate takes and songs from albums long out of print.
On the demo take of the tender ballad "Little Wing", from his 1968 Axis: Bold As Love album, Hendrix along with drummer Mitch Mitchell hammered out this remarkable muscular skeleton of a song. The unreleased alternate title track "South Saturn Delta" shows a direction Hendrix might have taken as he creates a jazz / rock fusion with the use of a horn section and jazz time phrasings. Two Bob Dylan covers are featured including "Drifter's Escape" and an alternate mix of "All Along The Watchtower" complete with Traffic's Dave Mason on 12-string guitar and Rolling Stones late guitarist Brian Jones on percussion. On a previously unreleased recording of "Midnight Lightning" Hendrix successfully recreates the sound of southern Delta blues on this raw version with just his guitar and voice. "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice", with it's smoldering guitar solo, is a wonderfully playful song, that today sounds like T. Rex meets Smashing Pumpkins.
Although previously released on the 1972 posthumous album War Heroes, this is the first time that the jaw-dropping instrumental "Midnight" has been available on domestic compact disc. The Experience band members, bassist Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell lay down a heavy, bedrock rhythm as Hendrix weaves in and out effortlessly with his Stratocaster, creating some of the most inspired rock guitar tones and sonic textures in the history of the instrument. This single song alone is well worth the price of the disc.
With the careful selection of archival material and extensive historical liner notes, the Hendrix family are the first to actually think, "Would Jimi be proud of this album?" before releasing it. On South Saturn Delta they got their answer.

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