After recording only sporadically for more than a decade and following stints in both Santana and the California Raisins (!?!), Buddy Miles convened a new Buddy Miles Express in the mid-'90s. Producer Bill Laswell was given the (short-lived) Black Arc imprint of Rykodisc, and Hell and Back was one of two initial releases to feature Miles (the other was the power trio Hardware with Bootsy Collins and Steve Salas). Miles has always combined rock, blues, and soul, and this album is no different, except that the songs just don't deliver. As one might expect with a Laswell production, everything sounds great, but the band just never rises above the material. When two of the best songs are a cover of "All Along the Watchtower" and a totally unnecessary version of "Born Under a Bad Sign," that's, well, a bad sign. Both "The Change" and "Let It Be Me" have really bad, late-night lover's rap spoken intros that the songs cannot overcome. "Be Kind to Your Girlfriend" is a nice sentiment, but the lyrics are pretty insipid. The standout track is "The Decision," a nice instrumental that succeeds in part because it sidesteps the whole lyrics issue. "Nothing Left to Lose" follows this track nicely, but as the last tune on the album, it's a case of too little, too late.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard