Allow me to indulge in a bit of heresy. I’m all about the sacred album format. I don’t like tinkering with track-listings, running orders and I don’t shuffle. If I’m in a social situation I’ll pick out favourite tracks to play but that’s about it. But here we have Jimi Hendrix’ First Rays of the New Rising Sun. It’s one of many posthumous collections of Hendrix’s final recordings but it’s an important one. Assembled by Hendrix associate/producer/engineer Eddie Kramer, it purports to be as close to the double album Hendrix was planning as is possible, based on Eddie’s insider knowledge, Jimi’s notes and the like.
But it’s a frustrating album.
Heresy No. 1: there are quite a few songs on this that are guff. Sleepy workouts like Izabella and goofy twaddle like Astro Man. It was a fun album when I first picked it up in the late 90s but over time the gulf between the great tracks and the ropey ones has only grown and it’s hard for me to listen to this front to back. I usually end up giving up. Which means killer tracks from the album’s latter half (like In From the Storm) have not reached my ears for too many years.
Heresy No. 2: this album works much better with a bit of pruning. And on Friday I did just that. Kramer and Hendrix… move over and let HMO take over! My reimagined First Rays of the New Rising Sun now goes:
Freedom/Night Bird Flying/Angel/Room Full of Mirrors/Ezy Ryder/Drifting/Stepping Stone/Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)/In From the Storm
Nine tracks. Thirty-six minutes. Sounds like a full album to me. And… it’s divine. I loved every second of it and it made me feel like I was listening to Jimi for the first time. No mean feat considering I’ve felt some very real Hendrix-fatigue in recent years. As Little Richard would say, it made my big toe shoot up in my boot! And the best of it is, I just wanted to go right back to the start and play it all again.
Ultimately, this is a bunch of my very favourite Hendrix tunes, finally liberated from the shackles of dull and sleepy filler tracks.
It’s been an interesting, enjoyable departure from my usual worship of the album form. What do you think? Ever had any albums you’ve needed to prune like this or is the very idea unthinkable?
[Jimi Hendrix – In From the Storm]