When Jimi Hendrix returned to play his hometown of Seattle, Wash., while on tour in 1968, he spent as much time as possible with kid sister Janie. “He said to me then, ‘You won’t ever have to worry about anything, I will always take care of you.'” recalls Janie, today. “And, I said back to him: ‘And when I get older, Jimi, I will always take care of you.'”
Today’s release of “Valleys of Neptune” (Sony Legacy), comes as a victory for Janie after waging years of court battles to gain complete control of the Hendrix catalog and archives. Among the most anticipated releases of 2010, “Valleys of Neptune” consists of more than 60 minutes of never-before-heard studio recordings by Hendrix, including several brand-new songs.
The album will launch Experience Hendrix’s new initiative, which includes a long-term licensing deal of the entire catalog with Sony’s Legacy label (after nearly two decades with Universal); concert tours celebrating the music of Hendrix; and a Rockband game currently under development.
Co-produced by Janie Hendrix, music archivist John McDermott and longtime Hendrix engineer/producer, Eddie Kramer, “Neptune” represents a portal to the time just after the release of Hendrix’s last studio LP, “Electric Ladyland,” in the fall of 1968, to when he started recording at his own Greenwich Village studio, Electric Lady, in the summer of 1970.
“You had a lot going on during that period,” said McDermott. “There was the breakup of the original Experience; and you had (drummer) Mitch Mitchell, (bassist) Billy Cox and Jimi beginning to record as a trio. We felt that was the one period that hadn’t really been documented in an interesting way. ‘Valleys Of Neptune’ is important because it conceptually shows the linear progression of Jimi’s career. These are 12 songs that fit just perfectly.”
McDermott noted that Hendrix was a prolific artist. “What we tried to do in the first phase during the Universal period,” he said, “was to restore his catalog and re-master everything. This phase will explore new releases. On the whole, there is a lot of incredible music still to come.”
Given what’s been released posthumously, which has far outweighed what came out during Hendrix’s lifetime — including three studio albums, his “Smash Hits” collection and the live “Band of Gypsies” set at the Fillmore East — it would seem as if the Hendrix vaults have been virtually swept clean.
But according to Janie Hendrix, more than 10 more years of audio and video releases could be in store.
“Honestly, there were more than 400 hours of tapes when he died,” said Hendrix. “I think in some ways — and it is sad to think this — but it is almost as if he knew he had a very limited time on earth to get done what he needed to get done in music. When it came to music he was a workaholic and he wanted to capture everything. He wanted the world to hear his music.”
Four years after the Jimi Hendrix Experience formed in London, Hendrix would die in his sleep in 1970.
According to Forbes, in 2009, Hendrix was the fourth best selling dead rock star, with sales exceeding $8 million, and only behind John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
“Jimi told my dad when he opened up Electric Lady Studios that he was working on a new kind of sound and a new kind of music,” said Hendrix. “He said: ‘It is going to change the way people listen to music. It will change everything.'”
“We can only surmise what kind of music Jimi Hendrix would have made had he lived,” said Eddie Kramer. “The only thing I know for sure, is he would have remained a musical maverick.”