South Saturn Delta
Experience Hendrix, 1997
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/16/2006
When the Hendrix Family took over Jimi's recordings, they quickly pulled the many half-baked posthumous collections off the market and slowly replaced them with authorized discs featuring superb sound quality. South Saturn Delta is the second in this restoration process.
The first one, First Rays of the New Rising Sun, tried to be as close to the fourth Jimi Hendrix proper album as possible, and it featured a number of classics. South Saturn Delta is a collection of songs recorded through Jimi's four years as a superstar, some jam sessions, some finished tracks, most probably not the way Hendrix intended them. But we'll never know, so we work with what we have, and most of these songs are great.
Delta is nearly devoid of the English whimsy or psychedelia that cluttered Jimi's three albums with the Experience. This is a straight rock and blues affair with touches of soul and jazz thrown in. Still, about two-thirds of these songs could and should have been on an Experience album long before now, proving that even on an off day Jimi was still a genius.
“Look Over Yonder” rocks hard for half of the track then quits for a bluesy vamp that halts the momentum, while an instrumental of what would later become “Little Wing” is interesting but not necessary. “Here He Comes (Lover Man)” is amazing, however, a bluesy rocker with some amazing solos (as if you expected any less) that by its mere presence would have lifted Electric Ladyland's excitement level a few notches. Same goes for the instrumental title track.
Many of these tracks are numbers Jimi played live but could never quite finish in the studio like he really wanted, as the extensive liner notes point out. “Tax Free” is one of these, a jaunty blues piece with unusual syncopation, while “Midnight” is the best piece here, a solid six minutes of soloing against a very catchy rhythm section.
“The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice” utilizes way too much fuzzed-out guitar, and the early run-through of “Angel” is only mediocre, as is “Power of Soul” and “Bleeding Heart.” “Pali Gap” is interesting, though, sounding a bit like an early instrumental Stevie Ray Vaughan number. The run-through of “All Along the Watchtower” is very similar to the finished version, but the closer “Midnight Lightning” is straight Delta blues, complete with finger snapping and an appropriately swampy sound.
As with any rarities collection, several of the songs sound like works in progress and slightly tarnish the recorded legacy of Jimi's best work. But the vast majority is excellent work, worthy of the Hendrix name and worth your time.