Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun

First I have to gripe. Though this is a two disc set the actual playing time is only 60 minutes, well within the limits of one disc. I presume Harper was attempting some sort of "concept album" feel (the packaging refers to it as "An Album in Two Parts") due to the title, but it's silly and unecessary and if it hadn't been on sale at Best Buy for $9.99 I would have felt ripped off. The two discs also offer a stylistic problem; while the first has a unified theme, the second feels like a collection of b-sides and demos with no clear reason for inclusion in the album. The first disc is all singer-songwriter Ben. While the man can rock with The Innocent Criminals, I've always felt he was at his best penning simple songs about love and heartbreak. Songs like Morning Yearning, Happy Everafter in Your Eyes and Reason to Mourn will join the likes of Another Lonely Day and Not Fire, Not Ice in the pantheon of great Ben Harper love songs. The Second disc is a hodgepodge of styles and themes and begins on a ridiculous note. Better Way is a latter day Revival; It's got some good music behind it, but the lyrics are so cringe inducing that it's hard to stomach. The title track gives Harper a chance to shine on what can best be described as his attempt at the socially conscious soul funk of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, and Black Rain attempts to recreate that feeling but fails lyrically. Harper's message songs have always had a positive note in them (With My Own Two Hands and Excuse Me Mr. come to mind), so the "black rage" element seems a little incongruous. But maybe that's just the whitey in me. The rest of the disc manages to range from a jazzy blues (The Way You Found Me) to a Zeppelinesque, guitar driven jam (Serve Your Soul), and lacks the coherence of the first. Why Harper felt the need to include the second disc is beyond me considering only three songs are really worth inclusion on the album.

Official Site

Track Listing and Lyrics

Performing Morning Yearning

3 Comments:

Anonymous nico said...

Bam! You cranked out a review of this one quickly. I've only given it one listen and it seems a bit weaker than his earlier efforts. I will give it a few more listens and review it soon.

Oh yeah, I also got the Neko Case disc and will do that one as well.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Todd Jones said...

considering i listened to the entirety of the first disc just taking my time getting back from best buy last night, it wasn't hard to listen to it all a few times today at work...

8:19 PM  
Blogger Chapel Hillbilly said...

I'll be honest, the only thing he put out that I dug after "Fight For Your Mind" was the live album. I still say that "Fight For Your Mind" was his shining moment.

6:04 AM  

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