High Times presents Rip This Joint – various artists
From the magazine that gives us a centerfold of prized buds each issue,
it now proudly plasters its name on a two-disc set of music. So what would
one expect from the makers of High Times? A multitude of musical tracks
making references to marijuana? Of course. Would you expect anything else?
Even the artwork and CD label pound home the point of what’s being
But, other than some of the more obvious moments (Humble Pie’s classic
warning "30 Days in the Hole" and Commander Cody & His East Coast Airmen’s
"Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues"), the 23 tracks do not become
overbearing with odes to the joys of smoking weed. To be hit over the head
again and again with every possible marijuana reference made in music would
just seem relentlessly redundant.
Instead, the focus is on the songs created by artists whose audience is
open to the experience of smoking a substance that’s deemed illegal in the
21st century yet was a cash crop until the middle part of the last one.
What’s possibly just as impressive as the sounds on this two-disc set are
the essays contained within the CD booklet. They cover everything from an
invitation to support NORML, the longtime association between High Times
and music the magazine’s first issue in 1974, and the link that runs from
classic rock of the late ’60s and ’70s to the jam band scene during the ’90s
and 21st century.
As one of the essays explains, High Times has supported musical
movements that have sprouted from grassroots movements. It mentions its
interest in punk and new wave artists, which eventually segued to hip-hop
those within it who were publicly fond of hits from the bong as much as they
were hits on the radio. Of course, there were lots of other sounds that have
escaped its pages, but that’s for another time.
The focus on Rip This Joint moves to the latest underground scene;
of the burgeoning jamband category. Much of the album is made of artists
familiar to those who go to this site (String Cheese Incident, Galactic,
moe., Gov’t Mule…). Creating a thematic link between these acts and
previous ones are several classic rockers such as Canned Heat, Foghat and
Mountain. Better yet are some surprise additions including one of my
personal faves, Fishbone.
The majority of the tunes are taken from live performances, which gives
the listener a lengthy list of rarities. It also brings us the music in the
context where it’s most appreciated. The folks at the syndicated radio
program, King Biscuit Flower Hour, opened their legendary vaults in order to
contribute the live tracks by Kingfish and the previously mentioned classic
rockers. While those who compiled the release, rightfully, regard it as a
coup, some of those earlier tracks end up sounding as if they should have
been contained on another album.
The first disc is a wonderful blend of good vibes, strong playing and
exuberant songwriting that blurs the space of years, displays the diversity
of the jam band scene and, most importantly, works from beginning to end.
second disc acts like a mix tape that loses some of its steam, not due to
song selection but an eventual lack of flow. The cause can be linked to the
abundance of heavy rock numbers, especially in the way that it finishes.
Is this enough to rip "Rip This Joint?" No. It’s just a bit of a come
down from the high of disc one. Song for song, the compilation makes for a