Ben Harper and the
CD Stock Number: Virgin 7243 8 10079 2 1
Ben Harper’s new live
CD, Live From Mars, comes after his most successful release, Burn
To Shine. The double CD features songs from all four of his studio
releases, Welcome To The Cruel World (1993), Fight For Your Mind (1995),
The Will To Live (1997), and Burn To Shine (1999). The CD takes
selected material recorded over the last 3 years with no two songs from the
same show. While covering four studio albums is no easy task for one live
release, Ben takes a very balanced approach evenly covering most of his work
so fans, old and new, won’t be disappointed.
While many would
categorize Harper as a folk rocker, that would be far too constrictive of a
label. His music comes from several styles: from rock and folk, soul and
blues, R&B and reggae. Dylan, Marley, and Skip James have influenced his
music and performing with Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker, and others has
impacted his emotionally bluesy-folk sound. Culminating all this together
brews a refreshing and original potion of soulful, melodic sounds that speak
to your heart and soul.
The double CD is really
two sides of Ben Harper’s shows. The first feature’s Ben and the
talented Innocent Criminals in electric sets of Ben’s harder edge tunes.
This also includes great covers of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and
Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” One of the big highlights is the hit,
“Steal Your Kisses”. Joining this performance as the human beatboxes,
Nick Rich and Rahzel add an element of beats that give the song an even
greater flair with Juan Nelson playing some incredible grooves on his bass.
The second CD features
just Ben and his acoustic guitars playing old and new songs alike. Listening
to songs such as “Roses From My Friends,” “Power Of The Gospel,” and
“Like A King/I’ll Rise,” is where you really feel Harper’s emotion,
soul, and political conscience. There’s power in his words that add to the
strength of his music.
Although all the cuts
of Live From Mars were taken from different shows, there is a good
consistency to the sound and feel from track to track. This of course brings
us to the sound of the CD, which is very good. All the tracks were recorded
raw with no overdubs or studio trickery. Essentially, what was recorded on
the 24 track is what you hear. This recording philosophy gives a very
natural, balanced sound. While the sonics aren’t the last word in
resolution and detail, it has a full-bodied tonality and weight that is well
suited to the raw feel of the music. This adds to the feel and structure of
sounds creating a nice sense of involvement. There are a few instances,
where unintentional instrument/amplifier noise is heard. This is actually a
good thing because this lets you know what you are hearing is live and true;
allowing one to better create the illusion of “being there.” Given a
choice, I’ll take a more raw, natural sound over an overproduced,
overdubbed live recording any day.
Live From Mars
has seen a lot of rotation in the system over the last month and I don’t
see any less in the near future; it’s that good. If you hunger for real
music that touches the heart, teaches the mind, and throws a groove in your
booty, grab a copy of Live From Mars, kick back and experience the
music of Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals. Peace!