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 Jimmy's Really Big African Adventure

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A 2008 trip to Mali inspires the Parrothead-In-Chief's new LP

by Austin Scaggs in Rolling Stone

Jimmy Buffettimmy Buffett's 28th studio album, Buffet Hotel, was inspired by an epic 2008 trip to Mali's Festival in the Desert, the annual gathering of nomadic Taureg musicians in the Sahara, near Timbuktu. Traveling with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and MTV co-founder Tom Freston, Buffett was creatively energized by the music he heard there -- and by 36 hours of partying and jamming in Mali's capital, Bamako. "This is not an African record," he says. "But as a writer, I was not going to get dropped into a pot like that and not come out with something."

Naming the album "Buffet Hotel" will only perpetuate the misspelling of your last name.

Absolutely -- and I like it! I've received royalty checks with the wrong name on it, and Universal has misspelled it on the album cover. In the early days, people would come up to me and go, "Where's the food?"

The Buffet Hotel is a major musical landmark in Mali.

Jimmy Buffett - Buffet Hotel
Produced by long-time Coral Reefer Band members Mike Utley and Mac McAnally, Jimmy Buffett's 2009 set Buffet Hotel contains 12 great new songs that are excellent additions to his already respected catalog.
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It's where this legendary African group called the Super Rail Band go their start. It's like a club you'd find on Beale Street [in Memphis], but it's actually a train station. The musicians worked for the railroad during the day and played at night. When you go to a show there, there are people in Muslim West African dress and guys in sharkskin suits.

There's a song on the album called "Surfing in a Hurricane" -- have you actually done that?

Absolutely. If you don't live in Hawaii or California or Montauk, you have to wait for a hurricane to get good waves. Growing up in Alabama, that was the only way to get surf. You know those surfing idiots you see on the news when the hurricanes come? I was one of those.

Who are your favorite young bands?

I love what the Kings of Leon do. They're the real deal, and they haven't even hit their peak yet. And Zac Brown: He reminds me of me. He'll be a big act.

What was it like traveling in Africa with Chris Blackwell, who introduced Bob Marley to the world?

He's so unassuming and cool, but people know who he is and what he's done for the music world, particularly in Africa. People would come up to him, almost like religious encounters, and thank him for Bob.

Did you ever meet Marley?

A couple of times, but we never hung out. I met him once on a jogging path in Coconut Grove, and I saw him watching the Larry Holmes-Muhammed Ali fight at the Garden in 1980.

Did your recognize his genius then?

I knew it. We were never close, but I felt we were touching a similar nerve in people, musically. The first time I went to St. Barths, I went to a bar called Le Select, and on the wall there were two posters next to each other -- one for Marley's Catch a Fire, and the other was of my album Son of a Son of a Sailor [1978]. They're still up there, behind Plexiglas now. I don't win many awards, and I don't care, but I take a lot of pride in that spot on the wall.  




 Hendrix's Deepest Riffs

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The new curators of the Jimi Hendrix estate find gold in the vaults

by Will Hermes in Rolling Stone

Jimi Hendrixome grousing from fans greets most posthumous Jimi Hendrix studio releases. And fair enough: Hendrix can't offer his opinion anymore, and between past dubious product (i.e., the heavily overdubbed Crash Landing) and ongoing business squabbles, there's been plenty of sketchy business over the years. But on Valleys of Neptune -- a collection of more-or-less previously unreleased tracks recorded with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969, assembled by the archivists at Legacy and the Hendrix estate -- the music is seething, gorgeous, alive.

Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of NeptuneUnreleased doesn't necessarily mean unfamiliar. "Stone Free," the opener, remakes one of Hendrix's earliest recordings, gaining in expansive arranging what it loses in garage-band immediacy (WTF, no cowbell?!). Ditto for a raging "Fire," featuring a guitarist somehow even more fluidly dazzling than he was on the original, even if he no longer asks Rover to move over. There's a wildly jammed, slightly showoff-y instrumental of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and a deliciously funky take on Ellmore James' "Bleeding Heart." For lay Hendrix fans, however, the biggest treat will be bright, revelatory mixes of tracks known mainly to connoisseurs: The lush, tuneful space travelogue of the title track (see below); the snarling, horny blues stomp "Ships Passing Through the Night," with its lava-spitting outro; the breakneck instrumental rocker "Lullaby for the Summer." Are these tracks "finished" as Hendrix would've intended? Probably not. But as a glimpse of the guitarist extending his reach beyond the Experience trio, it's thrilling. * * * 1/2

The new Jimi single 'Valleys of Neptune' is a gift from the guitar gods

"Lord, I feel the ocean swaying me/ Washing away all my pain," Jimi Hendrix sings at the start of the magnificent new discovery "Valleys of Neptune." The title track of a new album of previously unreleased Hendrix studio recordings, "Valleys of Neptune" was important to the guitarist, a heavy-rock hymn to rebirth that he worked on at multiple sessions starting in February 1969, yet never finished, at least to his satisfaction, before his death. But this version is perfection, cut on May 15th, 1970, with drummer Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and bassist Billy Cox. (Hendrix used a lead vocal and percussion from an earlier date.) It opens with a gorgeous swirl of guitar atop Mitchell's dancing cymbals, and Hendrix's animated rhythm work is like a second counterpoint vocal, while his instrumental bridge is a dramatic upward surge of liquid treble and slicing sword-blade chords, Hendrix died four months later. He sounds here like he was never more alive. - David Fricke 

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