Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Published: 2004/02/26
by Pat Buzby

Hell and Back – Buddy Miles Express

Innerhythmic 015

Buddy Miles might consider trying on some Otis

Redding if he's looking for covers for his next album,

because he's had a hard time getting respect. His

press reports tend to be laden with "buts." He was

among the first musicians to cross the bridge from

soul to psychedelic rock in the late '60s, but his

drumming is best known for lacking subtlety; he played

with three of the most trailblazing guitarists of that

era (Mike Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix and John McLaughlin), but each

alliance was shortlived. Even his accomplishments of

recent years, such as becoming the voice of the

California Raisins or making an oft-ridiculed guest

appearance with Phish in '96, have been mixed


No one tells Bill Laswell what to do, though, so the

maverick producer organized this recording in the

mid-'90s, and now, for reasons unknown to me, has

reissued it. He's done a good job, too, commissioning

a cover painting from Mati Klarwein (of Bitches Brew

fame) and mixing Miles's drums so that every nuance of

his trademark steamrolling grooves, even possible

mistakes (there we go again), comes through with

maximal crispness.

The Buddy Miles Express comes equipped with horns

and two guitarists (Kevon Smith and Nicky Skopelitis)

who know their Hendrix. Miles's covers of "Born Under

a Bad Sign" and "All Along the Watchtower" don't break

new ground, and neither do the originals ("Be Kind to

Your Girlfriend" is a representative title), but they

add up to an enjoyable funk-rock outing. In the end,

Miles comes off like a Harrison in need of a

Lennon/McCartney, but (!) Harrison did write a few of

the best rock songs of all time, and Miles proves

himself as an engaging singer (although I could do

without his spoken love rap at the start of "Let It Be

Me") as well as a powerhouse drummer.

Let's accentuate the positive for once: Hell and Back

proves that Miles is as fit for action as in his

supposed heyday of the late '60s, and perhaps even

more so. Not many of his contemporaries could make

such a claim.

Show 0 Comments