There's a few weeks to go until Legacy Recordings and Experience Hendrix LLC reprint the Jimi Hendrix catalogue. March 9 will see CD/DVD versions of four classic Hendrix albums as well as a new unreleased compilation, Valleys of Neptune, on store shelves. In preparation for the reissue, I've been acquainting myself with the ridiculously deep catalogue Hendrix left in his 27 short years on this Earth. And if music research could make me curl up and whimper, I'd have my arms around my knees by now.
In his lifetime, Hendrix put out three studio LPs (one of which was a double album), four non-LP singles (at least, if you're a U.K. listener - the track list for Are You Experienced omits some of those giant hits that the later U.S. version contains), a compilation (Smash Hits, the U.S. version of which was just reissued by Legacy as the first arm of the new catalogue project), a live album (Band of Gypsys) and an album side on another (a live release of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival - the other side was taken from Otis Redding's set). Meanwhile, something close to a dozen albums of Hendrix outtakes were put out between 1971 and 1995, (That's not even counting live records.)
While Experience Hendrix - the guitar god's estate, which has controlled Hendrix's master recordings since 1995 - has done a stellar job of streamlining the discography as much as possible (first through MCA/Universal and now through Sony/Legacy), the myriad of output can cause one to consider a too-rarely-considered question in the world of back catalogue music: how much is too much? Since the CD boom in the late '80s led labels to reissue, rediscover and repackage the best of major recording acts, even the most diligent and reserved of enthusiasts can get lost in the shuffle. And it's not just Hendrix. New Beatles fans endlessly find themselves considering the merits of anything Tony Sheridan had to do with. For all the dozens of times the Motown vaults birthed vintage material, there are probably another few dozen releases, stacked like boxes at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The list goes on.
So today, I pose the question to my fellow enthusiasts: how much vault content is too much? Many of us have found ourselves rebuying product more than once, and many of us will again. But at what point does one have to cool the jets for a minute, if only to acknowledge that which is already available for consumption?