First, the mandatory disclaimer: This Cab Calloway review is not in any way, shape or form promoting or encouraging the use of marijuana. That said, marijuana is a subject that any serious musicologist -- whatever his/her feelings about the drug -- will have to address at some point because, quite frankly, it's a drug that a lot of great artists have written about. Six decades before Dr. Dre called his first solo album The Chronic and Cypress Hill rapped about rolling blunts -- and 40 years before Bob Marley and his fellow reggae Rastafarians were claiming that the use of "ganja" was a sacrament -- Cab Calloway was the king of Depression-era marijuana songs. During the Great Depression, Calloway was as much of a counterculture icon as Snoop Doggy Dogg is today -- and The Hi-De-Ho Man: 1930-1933 takes a rewarding look at the swing/classic jazz singer's early output. Not everything on this CD is about marijuana; actually, less than half of the disc's 21 tracks are drug-related. But humorous, goofy tales of marijuana or cocaine use are the subject of classic jazz/early swing grooves like "Minnie the Moocher" (the original 1931 version), "Reefer Man," "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day," and "Kickin' the Gong Around." And the zany Calloway is equally infectious on gems that have nothing to do with marijuana or any other drug, such as "Corinne Corinna," "St. James Infirmary," "I've Got the World on a String," and "Is That Religion" (a clever, humorous putdown of charlatans who use religion to exploit and take advantage of others). Anyone who is seeking an introduction to Calloway's early recordings can't go wrong with The Hi-De-Ho Man: 1930-1933.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson