Because Hendrix's death in September 1970 occurred before his work on these tunes was completed, the questions still abound as to what Hendrix's ultimate vision for this double album would have been. Minus the worthless -- though well-intentioned -- overdubs and remix manipulation that occurred when this material was issued piecemeal over the years on The Cry of Love, War Heroes, Rainbow Bridge, and the disappointing Voodoo Soup, this collection finally gets listeners back to the master tapes residing in the Electric Ladyland vaults, and as close to what Hendrix had in mind as possible (as subject to change as these versions obviously were), and also places the tunes in their original context as an album. Because this collection utilizes mixes that Hendrix and engineer Eddie Kramer were working on at the time, the tracks perhaps lack the sonic wallop of the first three Experience albums, but have much more to offer than the stripped-away and re-dubbed versions that have been on the market. If one views First Rays of the New Rising Sun as an almost-completed work in progress, then it becomes obvious that Hendrix was heading in a new direction and sound, one rife with funk and rhythm & blues as a bedrock foundation. The psychedelic workouts got more jam-like and experimental, and the ballads got prettier and even more dreamlike in their background soundscapes. What he would have eventually come up with and release as his next musical statement is anyone's guess, but this gets you as close to that answer -- and that vision -- as you're ever likely to get.
The 2010 Legacy edition adds a short documentary DVD featuring interviews with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, as well as Eddie Kramer in the studio with the multi-track masters. Kramer takes us though the evolution of the tune "Angel" by playing parts of the original Olympic demo and a solo home demo before getting to the issued take. We also get to hear an instrumental demo for "Freedom," but the best part is when he breaks down a bunch of the guitar parts from "Night Bird Flying." There is also some great live footage of Jimi performing "Dolly Dagger" and "In from the Storm." ~ Cub Koda & Sean Westergaard