Monday, March 29, 2010

Dead Kings Rise Again

Jimi Hendrix
Valleys Of Neptune

Posthumous albums usually make me cringe. Not just because of the creep factor of mining the vaults of a dead musician for some last way to squeeze some proverbial blood from the stone. Like previous Hendrix collections, Valleys Of Neptune contains different versions of previously released material. The record kicks off with a more up-tempo version of "Stone Free," than was originally on Are You Experienced. It sounds far less menacing than the original and less of a threat from a man exercising his right to freedom.

Then comes the long sought after "Valleys Of Neptune", a decent enough song but hardly the long lost Hendrix classic. The covers of "Bleeding Heart", which is also a competent track with blistering Jimi guitar mastery, and the instrumental Cream "classic" "Sunshine Of Your Love," improve on their originals. I know it sounds as though I don't like this record, but I do. I do think it is the voyeuristing feeling of listening to this that maybe taints my feeling. The tracks are still strong. It's Jimi Fuckin' Hendrix! "Hear My Train A Comin'," and "Mr. Bad Luck," are fantastic and fresh. I could have done without the re-working of classics. But the lesser known or previously unknown traacks do not sully Jimi's legacy.

Track Grades:
  1. Stone Free - 8.8
  2. Valleys Of Neptune - 8.6
  3. Bleeding Heart - 8.4
  4. Hear My Train A Comin' - 9.3
  5. Mr. Bad Luck - 9.5
  6. Sunshine Of Your Love - 7.8
  7. Lover Man - 8.2
  8. Ships Passing Through The Night - 7.5
  9. Fire - 8.5
  10. Red House - 8.0
  11. Lullaby For The Summer - 8.7
  12. Crying Blue Rain - 8.5
Overall Grade=8.48

Johnny Cash
American VI: Ain't No Grave
Lost Highway

With all of the output that Rick Rubin managed to record from Johnny over the last few years of his life, it's easy to imagine Rubin locking Cash in a cabin yelling, "Sing, monkey, sing!". Even so, it is difficult to deny the effectiveness of Cash's voice, weakened by age, singing the remainder of his dwindling lifeforce over this simple arrangements. Ain't No Grave, like its posthumous predecessor A Hundred Highways, is little more than a collection of outtakes.

The first two tracks are lovely, poignant gems. Never has a Sheryl Crow song sounded so meaningful. And the title track is the prerequesite ominous tune about death or the endtimes in the vein of previous American album tracks like "The Man Comes Around", "God's Gonna Cut You Down",  or "The Mercy Seat,". Some albums are jam packed with them. After those first two songs, however, the record just gets bogged down and makes me sad, honestly.

Track Grades:
  1. Ain't No Grave - 9.3
  2. Redemption Day - 9.0
  3. For The Good Times - 7.4
  4. I Corinthians 15:55 - 7.8
  5. Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound - 7.4
  6. A Satisfied Mind - 7.6
  7. I Don't Hurt Anymore - 7.7
  8. Cool Water - 7.1
  9. Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream - 7.1
  10. Aloha Oe - 6.6
Overall Grade=7.7

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