South Saturn Delta
Most of the material on this collection is derived from sessions for Jimi's incomplete 'fourth' album. Jimi conducted multiple sessions for his follow-up to Electric Ladyland, both with the original Experience (Mitch Mitchell/Noel Redding); the large ensemble Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, the group that would play Woodstock in August 1969; Band of Gypsys (Buddy Miles/Billy Cox) which existed around the winter of 1969/70 and produced the eponymous live album; and the Mitchell/Cox 'Cry of Love' line-up. Work began in earnest with the latter group - indeed, these proved the most fertile period of creativity for Jimi in two years - and it is largely that line-up which produced the lovingly reconstructed posthumous collection First Rays of the New Rising Sun, an essential release. This collection then is basically a bit of a dumping ground for songs not considered realised enough, or of sufficient quality, by Eddie Kramer (Hendrix's erstwhile engineer) and the Hendrix Family, for that above collection, alongside other stray odds 'n ends' recorded earlier such as the b-side 'The Stars Play With Laughing Sam's Dice' and the Chas Chandler mix of 'All Along the Watchtower'.
Consequentially the collection is a bit of a mess, seemingly aimed at aficionados. It does not hang together necessarily as a collection, but that is not to deny that there are some golden moments on here - quite the reverse in fact, there is rarely a note of music not without interest if not beauty, sublimity and power. 'Look Over Yonder' and 'Lover Man' are surely the Experience, if the Experience had continued and released a follow-up to Ladyland; the latter is an up-tempo re-arrangement of BB King's 'Rock Me Baby', given new lyrics and permanent seating in the Hendrix live set. 'Look Over Yonder', a blues infused rocker, could nestle easily on Axis or Are You Experience?. Both songs contain exhilarating lead work from Jimi. 'Midnight', an instrumental, is also from those latter late Experience sessions, a fuzz-laden guitar epic of some power. 'Power of Soul' and 'Message to Love' are two 'Gypsy era' outtakes which would have surely been prime contenders for Hendrix's fourth magnum opus if live renditions had not been released on Band of Gypsys. 'Bleeding Heart' and 'Drifter's Escape' (Dylan) were recorded with Jimi's final band and should have probably been on First Rays of the New Rising Sun, their logical home. 'Bleeding Heart' is an Elmore James blues workout which saw constant re-arrangement both on stage and off (much like Jimi's own Hear My Train A-Comin) - here, Jimi crafts a funk-rocker from its sterling blues pedigree. 'Pali Gap' deserves special mention, a jam (although a jam given significant overdubs) of outstanding beauty and grace. The title belongs to Mike Jeffrey; whether it would have ended up on First Rays is anyone's guess but we can only marvel at it.
The remaining material probably deserves another home but there is some excellent curios there. The b-side (of 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp') ''The Star Plays With Laughing Sam's Dice' sees Jimi at his most playful and psychedelic, a charming slab of 1967/'Carnaby Street' pop. 'Tax Free', an uncharacteristically non-blues instrumental, was a heavy contender for Ladyland. The early drafts of 'Little Wing' and 'Angel' are a glimpse into Jimi's craftsmanship, and do possess a beauty although perhaps little replay value. 'South Saturn Delta', a song Jimi had worked on during the latter Experience era, sees Jimi expand into jazz with full horn overdubs - it hints at unrealised musical pastures in Jimi's music.
A curious hodge podge then, it would be easy to assign this one strictly to the completists, however with music as good as this, it is certainly worthwhile for the more discerning Hendrix fan to explore from time-to-time (after he has exhausted The Experience's trilogy and First Rays of course).