|Created by Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., under exclusive
license to MCA Records, Inc. in 1997.
|Peaked at the 49th spot on The Billboard 200 in 1997.
| Posthumous reconstructions of unfinished works are
inherently dangerous, principally because even the most
capable scholar or producer can only make, at best, an
educated guess as to how the work in question would have
|been completed. Indeed, in dealing with some such pieces, you're sometimes lucky to get the work of
the artist ...And while there's no question that the songs on this CD were recorded by Jimi Hendrix, even
the people who worked on the sides with him can't say which songs would have ended up on the
finished version of First Rays of the New Rising Sun (assuming that he even ended up using that title
for the album), or what embellishments he would have added to any of them in the course of completing
them...Hendrix had gone so long between albums, seemingly adrift stylistically at various times, that
there's no telling exactly what direction he was finally going to end up working toward. All of that said,
this is a superb album, and a worthy if very different, earthier successor to Electric Ladyland's
psychedelic excursions -- the later tracks, ironically enough, cut at that album's long promised and long-
delayed studio namesake -- and also show him working in some genuinely new directions. For starters,
Hendrix's voice emerges here as a genuinely powerful instrument in its own right -- his voice was never
as exposed in the mix of his songs as it is here; partly this is because Hendrix and engineer Eddie
Kramer never finished embellishing the songs, or completed the final mixes. But whatever the reasons,
the change is refreshing -- Hendrix's voice is not only powerful and expressive throughout, but a more
melodic instrument than it seemed on his earlier releases...It turns out that Hendrix had an expressive
voice and was also moving his music into new areas that were stimulating him. A lot of the material here
shows Hendrix, for the first time, moving his songs specifically into a black music idiom, embracing
R&B and funk elements in his singing, playing, and overall sound; some of it could qualify as Hendrix's
extension of his years playing with the Isley Brothers. Songs here such as "Freedom," "Izabella,"
"Angel," and "Dolly Dagger" show him finally acknowledging that musical world that he had largely by-
passed, and the closer, "Belly Button Window," is one of his most successful traditional bluesy outings.
The psychedelic workouts are more jam-like and experimental, and the ballads are prettier and even
more dreamlike in their background soundscapes. "Astro Man" also captures a light moment for the
artist, as he opens the guitar workout with a quote from the Mighty Mouse theme song, sotto voice
beneath the guitar. And speaking of the guitar, despite the prominence of Hendrix's vocals on a lot of
this album, the guitar playing is pretty much up to the standard that one would expect, if not necessarily
the final versions of some of the songs...What he would have eventually come up with and released as
his next musical statement is anyone's guess, but this gets you as close to that answer -- and that vision
-- as you're ever likely to get. It is the best representation of where the songs were at the point that he
died, and it's fully competitive, in terms of merits and surprises, with his trio of completed studio albums.
~(Bruce Eder & Cub Koda - Barnes & Noble)