EMI 357445; EMI ITALIANA - Italia;
Double albums used to be the preserve of those for whom two regular length sides of plastic just werent enough for your standard keyboard solo. But theyve all been at it recently--Foo Fighters, Chili Peppers, Bright Eyes, Nick Cave. What are they after--overtime? Californian multi-instrumentalist Ben Harper has perhaps more reasons than most to split his creativity down the middle and partition the results. In a decade of numerous, prolific works hes earned a reputation for being downright eclectic, shimmering between 60s blues rock and hippie protest songs, 70s funk, college rock, psychedelia and timeless soul.
Thats a lot of different coloured strands to wind into a coherent weave. So heres the alternative. The first disc contains his mellower, more lingering side, while the second is committed wholeheartedly to full-on jams. And in spite of its 18 tune total it has the feel of a concise, well-constructed collection--succeeding where so many double records fail.
He is, spiritually at least, part of the old guard. For the first half that means floating on the resonance of the live room, candles lit. And with the second its that revolution will probably be obtained by nudging amps into the red and roaring passionately until the veins show in your forehead. But his gifted, soulful playing brings two sides together and the likes of mean stringed tearjerker "Reason To Mourn" and angry funk of "Black Rain", recorded in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mark him out as a thriving individual talent. --James Berry