Various Artists

Dope & Glory: Reefer Songs

  • AllMusic Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Dope and Glory is a collection of '30s and '40s vocal jazz music with marijuana as the single defining theme. Both esoteric and carefree, the compilation album is a perfect release for Germany's Trikont, philosophy and political science graduate Achmin Bergmann's record label that grew out of a small left-wing publishing house that was distributing Mao's Little Red Book and Che Guevara's diary. Dope and Glory is an amazing insider look at a subculture of disobedience that was paired with jazz, one of the defining outsider artistic movements of the 20th century. New Orleans, the original reefer city, is represented here through Louis Armstrong among others, and Chicago and the jive culture center of Harlem are conjured and referenced by the likes of the archetypal "reefer man," Milton "Mezz" Mezzrow. Marijuana is mentioned in every song, whether as "reefer," "jive," "weed," "viper," "golden leaf," or "Texas tea." There's a certain levity to hearing Julia Lee sing about trying "spinach" in "Spinach Song," or the grooviness of Cab Calloway's semi-sinister "The Man From Harlem." But the jazz music on Dope and Glory stands on its own as sublime, uplifting, and influential regardless of the theme. For one thing, Dope and Glory proves how pervasive reefer culture was amid the jazz scene. Luminaries accepted by mainstream America -- like Benny Goodman ("Texas Tea Party"), Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole ("Hit That Jive Back"), and Tommy Dorsey -- appear throughout the collection. In the end, Dope and Glory is an ethnomusicological curiosity, a political album, and a simply great set of jazz. The artists score points for the revolutionary potential of music, but at the same time, they're just laying down some smoking tunes.

blue highlight denotes track pick