High on the Hog - Song by Song
by Seth Rogovoy
Article originally appeared in the Usenet newsgroup
alt.music.the-band, February 1996.
Here is a song-by-song breakdown/description of High On the
Hog. I got the advance promo copy for my duties as a rock critic, but the
disk didn't come with any booklet, so I'm left guessing about who does
what, exactly. I don't know why record cos. do that. It's pretty
bass-ackwards if you axe me.
1. STAND UP (Channel/Rector)
Levon sings lead on this moody, R&B
thumper, awash in horns. A low-key intro but one that sets the tone for
2. BACK TO MEMPHIS (Young/Young/Johnson/Kenney/Orr/Martin)
Bell is the featured musician on this cut which boasts lots of
barrelhouse piano. A very very slow blues, it's also heavy on the horns
and features vintage three-way harmonies with Levon out front of the mix.
3. WHERE I SHOULD ALWAYS BE (Chaplin)
Rick's song all the way, a
love ballad that tries to recapture the glory of It Makes No Difference.
Garth's psychedelic Lowery organ (?) interweaves throughout the tune. The
bridge features some counterpoint vocals from another singer, not Levon,
perhaps Randy Ciarlante, whose vocals are given much greater prominence
on the disk as a whole compared to Jericho. It's funny, too, because the
vocals sound a lot like Robbie's! Jim Weider replicates Robbie's guitar
sound on the outro -- notably one of the only times on the album he
overtly goes for a Robbie sound. The guitar is met by Garth's saxophone,
just as on "It Makes No Difference", at the end.
4. FREE YOUR MIND (Foster /McElroy)
You get to hear Levon sing the
lines "I like rap music and hip-hop clothes" on this tune, a plea for
racial understanding and unity. It's a funky number with a sprinkle of
hip-hop sounds, and it even features a sort of dub section during the
break. It is mired, however, with an uncharacteristically pedestrian horn
arrangement, much more Chicago (the group) than Allen Toussaint (the
Band's great horn arranger). This is a weirdly produced track, I guess.
5. FOREVER YOUNG (Bob Dylan)
Given a pretty straightforward, faithful rendition.
This song has been covered way too much, but I suppose if anyone has the
right to sing it it's these guys, who after all played on the original
version, as well as on live versions in '74 and at the Last Waltz. They
all trade off vocal phrases. It's very weird -- I'll be interested to
hear what you folks think -- but the very first person to sing on this
track sort of sounds like Rick but then again doesn't sound like Rick.
Later on in the song, Rick sounds a lot more like himself. It's
possible that Randy kicks off this tune, I can't tell. I kinda wish they
did the fast version , though. No one ever plays it that way, it could be
sort of like "Rag Mama Rag" if they did it.
6. HIGH PRICE OF LOVE
This is probably the best track on the album.
Shades of vintage Band. You could easily pick this up and plant it on
Stage Fright or Cahoots and it might well fit. Great dual vocal by Levon
and Rick, it's a slow R&B thumper -- it also could have fit well on one
of Levon's solo albums -- with a typical descending bridge and great high
lonesome harmonies by Rick. Jim Weider contributes some great
Robbie-like counterpoint guitar that dances around the vocals on the
chorus. It's a densely textured tune, which is partly what makes it sound
like Old Band, kind of a cross between "W.S. Walcott" and "Forbidden Fruit".
7. CRAZY MAMA
Slow blues. You all know it from the live shows, where
it's pretty boring. It's pretty boring here too. A showcase for Jim
Weider, playing in his not-Robbie style. I can't figure out what these
guys like about this tune, except in concert Levon plays bass on it, and
that's worth it to me.
8. LOVE YOU TOO MUCH
This is the lost Bob Dylan /Helena Springs tune,
ironically the fiercest rocker on the whole album. Rick, or is it Randy?
hard to tell, contributes some very Dylanesque phrasing, but in the end
you can see why Bob never recorded this. It's like one of his leavings.
9. SHE KNOWS
You all know this from the box set. It still features
intro and outro spoken word by Rick, and as such really sticks out like a
sore thumb on the album. It totally doesn't relate to the album as a
whole, except as a reminder of what they've lost. Maybe they just can't
imagine ever releasing an album by The Band without Richard Manuel on it.
That's a nice sentiment; I'd prefer they just change their names to The
Hawks and be done with it.
10. RAMBLE JUNGLE
Someone suggested the voccalist is Champion Jack
Dupree -- he's credited with writing the tune, a Bo
Diddley-goes-to-Africa jam. Weird. Doesn't really relate to the album,
Well, that's my unopinionated preview (!) of the album.
-- Seth Rogovoy
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