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Jimi Hendrix's new studio album


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USA Today

Nearly 40 years after his death, Jimi Hendrix remains not only rock's most iconic and influential guitarist but perhaps its most prolific ghost.


Valleys of Neptune, containing a dozen previously unreleased studio tracks recorded mostly in 1969, arrives March 9 to kick off Sony/Legacy's massive reissue campaign.


The legend's 11th studio album — the eighth to be issued posthumously and first since 1980 — boasts his Experience trio's final studio recordings, his earliest sessions with bassist Billy Cox and the long-shelved Mr. Bad Luck, intended for 1968's Axis: Bold as Love.


Also included is a frenzied Fire, the long-coveted title track (out globally Feb. 2), a sprawling cover of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love and such retooled originals as Lover Man, Red House and Crying Blue Rain. Throughout, Hendrix displays confidence, humor, spontaneity and his trademark virtuosity as he undergoes a shift from psychedelia and unbridled soloing to R&B structures.


"It's wonderfully fresh material," says longtime Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, who originally recorded, and newly mixed, the Neptune tracks, employing high-tech digital and analog gear to cleanse the audio. "You hear the pure essence of the band, an in-your-face vibrancy. There were only four tracks and no overdubs, with Jimi singing as if he's in a concert. He's at the top of his game."


Just as 2009's Beatles reissues ignited sales across generations, Neptune and the upgraded Hendrix catalog are expected to lure rock fans of all ages. The March 9 batch includes deluxe editions of Are You Experienced, Axis, Electric Ladyland and First Rays of the New Rising Sun, each with a bonus DVD documentary.


"We're going to generate a ton of excitement about Hendrix," predicts Adam Block, senior vice president of Legacy Recordings. "Today we experience Hendrix on rock radio, movies, soundtracks, TV. That really reflects the timelessness of this material. And beyond the recordings, there's the spirit of Jimi and what he represents: uncompromising originality. That's so rare, and you can't underestimate how that contributes to his current relevance."


Hendrix left a wealth of pristine studio and live tapes.


"There's a strong vault, a lot of live stuff, that we have yet to tap into," says Kramer, marveling at what the storied ax man might have achieved had he not died in 1970 at age 27.


"I'm sure he would have incorporated the past and hip-hop and dance and all the modern technology. He would have gone into symphonic jazz with a huge horn section. He'd be a huge force."


Well, more huge.

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