CD Review: Ben Harper: Both Sides...

-- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET


Ben Harper
Both Sides of the Gun
(Virgin/EMI)

Ben Harper has always worn his influences on his sleeve, whether they be Led Zeppelin-esque bombast or Albert King soulful blues.

Now, with not one but two CDs to play with at once, Harper unleashes all his musical demons -- from the acoustic ballad brilliance of Big Star to Sly-funk to Staples-gospel to Tom Waits smoky narratives.

And through the smoke somehow emerges the cult hero's most coherent work to date.

Both Sides of the Gun, an album more or less divided into acoustic and electric halves, is Harper's Exile on Main Street; an opportunity for the artist to rummage through his creative attic and dust off some grand old ideas.

There is the exquisite Morning Yearning, complete with string quartet; the gently rocking Get it Like You Like it (in Exile terms, the album's Tumbling Dice); and the heavy, heavy Serve Your Soul.

And then there is the commanding Black Rain, perhaps the most acidic attack on Bush's America yet committed to disc.

"Don't you dare speak to us/ Like we work for you," Harper sneers before essentially calling for an overthrow of the government by any means necessary.

Call it folk music.

And a welcome infusion of passion into an increasingly bland mainstream.

Track Listing:

Disc 1:
1. Morning Yearning
2. Waiting For You
3. Picture In A Frame
4. Never Leave Lonely Alone
5. Sweet Nothing Serenade
6. Reason To Mourn
7. More Than Sorry
8. Cryin' Won't Help You Now
9. Happy Everafter In Your Eyes

Disc 2:
1. Better Way
2. Both Sides Of The Gun
3. Engraved Invitation
4. Black Rain
5. Gather 'Round The Stone
6. Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating
7. Get It Like You Like It
8. The Way You Found Me
9. Serve Your Soul

Disc 3:
1. Gather 'Round The Stone (Alternate Version Mix)
2. Reason To Mourn (Alternate Mix)
3. Get It Like You Like It (Live Acoustic)
4. Waiting For You (Alternate Mix)
5. Morning Yearning (Alternate Mix)
6. Beloved One (Live)


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