Facebook Twitter

Hendrix album is mediocre; Stradlin work is focused, witty

SHARE Hendrix album is mediocre; Stradlin work is focused, witty

Guitars, for the most part, are essential in rock music. (But don't tell that to Morphine or Ben Folds Five). And one of rock's most influential ax-slingers, Jimi Hendrix, is back (although not from the dead) with a new release.

And just for good measure, former Guns N' Roses rhythm strummer, Izzy Stradlin, decided to delve into the blues. Here are the reviews of those albums.JIMI HENDRIX; "South Saturn Delta" (Experience Hendrix/MCA). * *

If the Beatles released an "Anthology," why can't Jimi Hendrix?

Jimi Hendrix's new album, "South Saturn Delta," which is the follow-up to the guitarists newfound distribution deal that now involved his family and MCA, is pretty much a "from the vaults" release.

Although Hendrix's family (under the label Experience Hendrix) is behind this one, it doesn't quite match up to the earlier works. While that could be because of the material and what was on Jimi Hendrix's mind at the time, some responsibility lies on the man's survivors.

Almost a year ago, Hendrix's family and MCA Records formed a partnership to redistribute the guitarists first three albums ("Are You Experienced," "Axis: Bold as Love" and "Electric Ladyland"), as well as a new concept album "First Rays of the New Rising Sun," an album Hendrix was working on at the time of his death in 1970.

Those albums used the original master tapes that brought a new life to the albums. However, "South Saturn Delta" is another story.

It's a compilation of raw demo tapes and alternative takes. In fact, some of the alternative versions of such songs as "Little Wing" and "All Along the Watchtower" sound a little too raw and incomplete, especially with the absence of the bass during a few cuts.

Sure it's cool to compare the finished versions to these sometimes doodlesome experiments, there isn't any real substance here.

The only thing the fans will hear is how dangerously close to mediocrity Hendrix could get with the tunes "Look Over Younger," "Power of Soul" and "Tax Free."

While carefully listening to "South Saturn Delta," one can simultaneously hear innovation and destruction. In fact, there are some spots that foretell a late-career Elvislike Hendrix playing guitar in a Las Vegas lounge, complete with a brass band.

Hendrix's guitar leads are crisp, but the mix isn't what the man was capable of playing.

IZZY STRADLIN; "117 Degrees" (Geffen). * * * 1/2

Well, the former Guns N' Roses guitarist - no, not Slash, Izzy Stradlin - knew he had a good album going. Right after its release, the musician did a few interviews, then cancelled the rest and took off for Hawaii.

His philosophy was apparently, "When you've got something good, you don't need to hype."

Stradlin's sophmore album, "117 Degrees," jams in almost all the right places. His guitar work is laid-back, yet, volatile and moody - just like when he was with Guns.

In comparison to the axman's first album, "Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds," "117 Degrees" is wiser and more focused.

Having formed a new band with former Guns' bassist Duff McKagan, ex-Ju Ju Hound guitarist Rick Richards and former Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley, Stradlin rightly focused on the "cocaine blewz."

Lots of slide guitars, rip-roaring arrangements and drawling, wit-driven vocals give the 14 songs their charm.

The mix is clear. The music rocks and throws the listener a combination left-hook and uppercut just for good measure.

The California-coast bends of "Surf Roach," the rockabilly-laced "Memphis," the punk-based fury (thanks to McKagan) "Methanol" and smart-alecky "Freight Train" are a few of the rich textures offered on the disc.

There's even a shrugging comment to his former big band in "Old Hat," a song that dumps on the fast-living lifestyle of a rock star.

Stradlin had a lot of baggage coming into this album, but he purges his experiences in a quick-mouthed, slyly-penned collection.