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First Rays of the New Rising Sun
Studio album by Jimi Hendrix
Released April 22, 1997
Recorded March 13, 1968, November 17, 1969–August 26, 1970, October 19, 1970, November 20, 1970
Genre Hard rock, Psychedelic rock, Blues-rock
Length 69:25
Label MCA
Producer Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Kramer, Mitch Mitchell, John Jansen
Professional reviews
Jimi Hendrix chronology
Jimi By Himself: The Home Recordings
(1995)
First Rays of the New Rising Sun
(1997)
South Saturn Delta
(1997)

First Rays of the New Rising Sun is an attempt to recreate the album Jimi Hendrix was working on at the time of his death in 1970, as closely as is feasible to how he would have wanted it (based on recordings and notes he made during the last months of his life). After its release in 1997, the album reached #49 in the US and #37 in the UK.

It was originally projected as a double-LP with a presumed release date of late 1970 or early 1971. Hendrix went off to England in late August 1970 to play the Isle of Wight festival, followed by a brief European tour, but never returned. He asphyxiated after taking an overdose of sleeping pills in London on September 18, 1970 at the age of 27.[1]

Contents

Hendrix's original plan for the album

The original plans for the album changed many times and were never finalized. Hendrix was looking towards releasing a double or even triple-LP. During mid-summer 1970, Hendrix even talked about releasing an additional LP of new songs that didn't fit the project, under the name "People, Hell And Angels."

The last documented working name for the album was Strate Ahead [sic] (the title atop the last documented track list found in Hendrix's notes). The name of this release (First Rays of the New Rising Sun) is referenced in at least two songs intended on the album -- "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" and "Izabella" -- and in several onstage comments Hendrix made during performances that were recorded at that time. [2]

During the recording of his next album Hendrix had written a few conceptual track listings. This tracklist written on a 3M tape box has no title and is not in Hendrix's hand:[3]

Side A

  1. Dolly Dagger
  2. Night Bird Flying
  3. Room Full Of Mirrors
  4. Belly Button Window
  5. Freedom

Side B

  1. Ezy Rider
  2. Astro Man
  3. Drifting
  4. Straight Ahead
  5. Freedom

Side C

  1. Night Bird Flying
  2. (Drifter's Escape)
  3. (Come Down On Me)
  4. Beginnings [scored out]
  5. Cherokee Mist [scored out]
  6. (Angel)

Side D

This section was blank.

On the tracklisting mentioned above, "Freedom" is both on side A and B, and "Night Bird Flying" is both on side A and C. Also, on the handwritten tracklisting, two songs on side C have lines through them. It is remarkable that Hendrix did not include many other songs which he had been working on during the summer of 1970, including "Izabella", "Lover Man", "Stepping Stone", "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)", "Earth Blues", "In From The Storm", "Bleeding Heart", "Burning Desire", "Can I Whisper In Your Ear", "Hear My Train A'Comin'", "Midnight Lightning" and "Send My Love To Linda".

Other proposed track listings

The last track listing available is for an LP titled Strate Ahead [sic], which is in Hendrix's handwriting.[3] It is unknown what the crosses, ticks and dashes signify:

->Strate Ahead-> x [sic]

  1. Ezy Ryder x
  2. Room full of Mirrors x-
  3. Earth Blues - Today √
  4. Valleys of Neptune -
  5. Have you heard - √
  6. Cherokee Mist - instr.
  7. Freedom x √
  8. Steppin Stone √
  9. IZABella √
  10. Astroman x -
    • Page 2/3
  11. Drifters Escape
  12. Angel
  13. Burning Desire
  14. Nightbird Flying
  15. Electric Lady - Slow.
  16. Getting My Heart Back Together Again
  17. Lover Man
  18. Midnight Lightning
  19. Can I Whisper In Your Ear - slow
  20. Sending My Love - slow to medium
  21. This Little Boy
  22. Locomotion
  23. Dolly Dagger
  24. The New Rising Sun (Hey Baby)

These lists include several new songs that were in the process of being created. Some can be heard now on various releases, in early stages of development; others are difficult to identify. It is unknown whether "Sending My Love" is the same song as "Sending My Love to Linda". The song "Burning Desire" only exists in live rehearsal/concert versions and nothing of "Locomotion" is known beyond a couple of early lyric lines on a piece of paper. The identity of the song "Electric Lady-slow" is impossible to ascertain. "This Little Boy" appears to have no references and has disappeared without a trace. Most of the rest of the songs were almost finished when Hendrix died.

Initial releases

All but three of the songs on this album were released on the first two posthumous Hendrix albums, released seven months apart in 1971: The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge, both produced by Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell. The remaining three songs were on the third posthumous LP (and last produced by Kramer), War Heroes.

Release of the original albums was complicated by Hendrix & Jeffery's contract to provide a soundtrack LP for the film Rainbow Bridge. Even though none of the songs on Rainbow Bridge actually appear in the movie of that name, the album cover stated that it was the official soundtrack, and the three tracks used for War Heroes were replaced on Rainbow Bridge by "Look Over Yonder" (a leftover song from 1968 recording sessions), the live "Hear My Train A Comin'," and a multi-tracked instrumental "Pali Gap". A multi-tracked solo studio version of "The Star Spangled Banner" from 1969 was also added.

These tracks were an attempt to give the album more of a "live" feel, as the movie revolved around a small outdoor concert by Hendrix in Maui, Hawaii. "Hear My Train A Comin" was an alternate title for "Getting My Heart Back Together Again"; a studio version may have been part of Hendrix's plan for this album, though the cut on Rainbow Bridge is a live performance taken from the May 30, 1970 concert depicted in the movie "Jimi Plays Berkeley."

Controversy over control of Hendrix's music

For many years after Jimi Hendrix's death, producer Alan Douglas controlled the release of the musician's remaining unreleased tracks. Many of Douglas' choices were controversial, such as his removal of the original backing musicians, replacing them with studio musicians who had never played with Hendrix, overdubbing guitar parts and adding female backing vocalists, reworking most of the songs and claiming co-composer credits on some.

In 1995, Douglas had produced an album of Hendrix's work titled Voodoo Soup. This collection covers much of the same material as First Rays of the New Rising Sun but leaves out several important tracks, replaced by songs that have no connection to the original project. In addition, its tracks were heavily edited. For example, some drum parts were removed and replaced with new overdubs by Bruce Gary (best known as drummer for pop-rock group The Knack), who had never played with Hendrix.

After a long legal struggle initiated by Al Hendrix and his adopted daughter Janie, they finally gained control of Jimi's recorded works in 1995 (under the name "Experience Hendrix LLC") and hired Eddie Kramer—who had recorded most of Hendrix's music, including his last songs—to put these tracks back together on one album, where previously they had been separated onto three.

Reconstructing the album

The tracks for this album ranged from finished to skeletal at the time of Hendrix's death. Much of the material had been recorded over the summer of 1970 at Jimi's just-completed Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Many songs seemed to be missing just their finishing touches, but Hendrix was a perfectionist who had already spent two years developing this album, making it hard to be sure. Mitchell and Kramer have claimed that only the changes that had been discussed with Hendrix have been made for the unfinished tracks.

Recording engineer Eddie Kramer used the same tracks with the same posthumous overdubs, production and mixing that he and Mitch Mitchell had applied on the "Cry of Love", "Rainbow Bridge" and "War Heroes" albums (apart from the removal of the drum beats at the beginning of "Easy Rider"). For First Rays of the New Rising Sun Kramer remastered and resequenced these tracks.

Many songs only needed a final mix, which was made posthumously. However, "Belly Button Window" was possibly intended to have more overdubs. Both "Beginnings" and "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" are in early stages of production, featuring basic tracks which might ultimately have been re-recorded. (In the latter song, Hendrix can be heard asking "Is the microphone on?") Some tracks, such as "Straight Ahead", feature a preliminary vocal track that Hendrix had intended to re-record. A vibraphone track was added to "Drifting" like Hendrix had planned - though he also had an idea of using another guitar track instead of vibraphones.

Other songs planned for the album were left out of this compilation as simply too raw, including "Come Down Hard On Me" and "Cherokee Mist" (both released on 2000's four-CD The Jimi Hendrix Experience) and "Drifter's Escape" (later found on the 1997 compilation South Saturn Delta). "Valleys of Neptune" and "Can I Whisper In Your Ear" are in too early a stage of development to be considered for a mainstream release.

The song "My Friend", is an exception. It was recorded much earlier than the rest of the material (during Electric Ladyland sessions in 1968), and some people have raised doubts as to whether Hendrix had ever intended to include it. "Ezy Ryder" was not used in the similarly named movie Easy Rider but was inspired by Hendrix's viewing of it.

Track listing

All songs were written by Jimi Hendrix

  1. "Freedom" – 3:27
  2. "Izabella – 2:50
  3. "Night Bird Flying" – 3:50
  4. "Angel" – 4:22
  5. "Room Full of Mirrors" – 3:20
  6. "Dolly Dagger" – 4:44
  7. "Ezy Ryder" – 4:09
  8. "Drifting" – 3:48
  9. "Beginnings" – 4:13
  10. "Stepping Stone" – 4:12
  11. "My Friend" – 4:36
  12. "Straight Ahead" – 4:42
  13. "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" – 6:04
  14. "Earth Blues" – 4:21
  15. "Astro Man" – 3:34
  16. "In From the Storm" – 3:41
  17. "Belly Button Window" – 3:36

Note: "Straight Ahead" used the music from the earlier "Pass It On" but had completely new lyrics.

Personnel

  • Buddy Milesdrums (on tracks 5 & 7 ), backing vocals
  • Albert Allen (The Ghetto Fighters) – backing vocals on "Freedom"
  • Arthur Allen (The Ghetto Fighters) – backing vocals on "Freedom"
  • Billy Armstrong – percussion on "Ezy Rider"
  • Buzzy Linhart – vibraphone on "Drifting"
  • Emmeretta Marks – backing vocals
  • The Ronettes – backing vocals
  • Steve Winwood (Traffic)– backing vocals on "Ezy Rider"
  • Chris Wood (Traffic) – backing vocals on "Ezy Rider"
  • Ken Pine (The Fugs) – 12 string on "My Friend"
  • Stephen Stills – piano on "My Friend"
  • Paul Caruso – harmonica on "My Friend"
  • Jimmy Mayes – drums on "My Friend"
  • Eddie Kramer – producer, engineer, mixing, photography, remastering
  • Tony Bongiovi – engineer
  • Jack Adams – engineer
  • Bob Cotts – engineer
  • Bob Hughes – engineer
  • John Jansen – engineer
  • John McDermott – liner notes, remastering supervisor

References

  1. ^ Verdict of coroner's inquest
  2. ^ Sleeve notes to Voodoo Soup CD by Michael Fairchild
  3. ^ a b Jimpress magazine Steve Rodham

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