Jimi Hendrix - The Cry of Love
Jimi Hendrix - First Rays of the New Rising Sun
Album Comparisons: The Cry of Love / First Rays of the New Rising Sun
Hendrix died an untimely death in 1970, during production of his intended follow up to Electric Ladyland. At the time of his death, a few songs had been completely finished - written, recorded, and mixed - and several others were in various stages of completion. The Cry of Love, released in 1971, represented an attempt by Hendrix's engineer (Eddie Kramer) and drummer (Mitch Mitchell) to complete the album, and was the first of numerous posthumous LPs which showed Hendrix moving toward a more funk-rooted style. Unlike some of the later releases, The Cry of Love featured original instrumentation by Hendrix's collaborators as opposed to session musicians recorded and dubbed in years after the fact. In 1997, after the Hendrix family gained control of his estate, the album was deleted and replaced by a much meatier compilation issued under the title First Rays of the New Rising Sun, which featured a total of seventeen tracks and included the entire contents of the earlier Cry of Love LP. In 2014, the Cry of Love collection was reissued in a newly remastered version. How do these three releases compare? Note: This comparison is only of the songs featured on the Cry of Love album, omitting the additional material found on First Rays of the New Rising Sun.

Freedom

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Freedom

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Freedom

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Freedom

Drifting

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Drifting

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Drifting

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Drifting

Ezy Ryder

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Ezy Ryder

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Ezy Ryder

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Ezy Ryder

Night Bird Flying

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Night Bird Flying

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Night Bird Flying

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Night Bird Flying

My Friend

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

My Friend

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

My Friend

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

My Friend

Straight Ahead

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Straight Ahead

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Straight Ahead

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Straight Ahead

Astro Man

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Astro Man

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Astro Man

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Astro Man

Angel

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Angel

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Angel

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Angel

In From the Storm

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

In From the Storm

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

In From the Storm

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

In From the Storm

Belly Button Window

The Cry of Love (1987 Reprise release)

Belly Button Window

First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)

Belly Button Window

The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix release)

Belly Button Window
And the winner is: The Cry of Love, 2014 Experience Hendrix release. The earlier Cry of Love CD sounds pretty thin, a lot like a needledrop, despite the better apparent dynamics over the First Rays disc. The First Rays release overall sounds great, but I have to point out one glaring issue with the mastering job, and it's at the start of the very first song, "Freedom." When the intro segues into the bass at about seven seconds in, there's a very noticeable half second or so of clipping distortion that accompanies it. I used to think this was a fault in the master tape itself, where the volume of the mix had been pushed too hard and caused distortion similar to that heard in all the pre-2009 issues of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" on The Beatles' Abbey Road (digitally removed in the 2009 remaster). However, a listening comparison of the First Rays version with both of the Cry of Love CDs reveals that the fault is entirely due to the overly loud mastering. Even worse, another instance of this type of distortion occurs at about 1:31 into "Night Bird Flying," during a particularly loud drum section. This kind of fault is absolutely avoidable, and completely unacceptable, and it mars the overall presentation of this disc. Other than that, though, the 1995 CD sounds sonically superior to the earlier 1987 disc in every way, and it doesn't feature the irritatingly reversed stereo channels found on the older disc's first track. But the most recent 2014 Experience Hendrix release crushes both of them, featuring the original master tapes AND an absolutely top notch mastering job with outstanding dynamics. I'm admittedly very surprised to see a 2014 disc that looks and sounds like this, but here's hoping that this bodes well for future re-releases in the Experience Hendrix series.