High On The Hog

The Band

Rhino, 1996

http://www.thebandmusic.net

REVIEW BY: David Bowling

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/09/2017

High On The Hog was the second LP released by the post-Robbie Robertson incarnation of The Band. While there are some pleasant moments, it would prove to be the weakest of their three late career albums.

The Band members only wrote two original songs for this release, and so again covered other artist’s material to create the bulk of this album. Unfortunately, their choice of material was not as wise as on their previous release, nbtc__dv_250 Jericho.

Robbie Robertson’s solo work ranged from average to very good, was not as critically acclaimed or commercially successful as his early work with them. Likewise Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, and Rick Danko emerged as an excellent cover band, but they suffered from the lack of Robertson’s writing expertise. I have come to believe that Robertson was a better songwriter in a group setting, but he and The Band never reunited and rock was all the poorer for it.

There were some very nice highlights to High On The Hog. “Back To Memphis” is a nice bluesy song and features a virtual wall of sound by Garth Hudson. The J.J. Cale song, “Crazy Mama,” was another song taken in a blues direction but has a nice rocking sound to it as well. Cale’s writing style was a good match for The Band at this point in their career. “I Must Love You Too Much,” written by Bob Dylan, is ramped up into a full rock ‘n’ roll version. Rick Danko provides a gorgeous vocal on “Where I Should Always Be.”

There were also some not-so-good moments contained on this release. There is an abysmal version of “Forever Young,” which was a tribute to Jerry Garcia. It is just off-kilter and ultimately one of the more depressing renditions of this often recorded song. “She Knows,” with a vocal by the deceased Richard Manuel, is not really a Band song. It was Hudson, Danko, and Manuel in a more informal setting, and it would have better served Manuel’s memory to have left it off the album. The old Bruce Channel song, “Stand Up,” was an odd choice and the two Band originals, “The High Price of Love” and “Ramble Jungle,” are average.

High On The Hog may be the weakest album in their catalogue. It wouldn’t end their career, but it certainly did not enhance it either. They would remain an excellent concert band selling out mid-level venues across the country.

Rating: B-

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