Ben Harper - Both Sides Of The Gun Virgin

If you pick up this CD in your local store you might think that Ben Harper's sixth solo studio album is a double. Although there are two CDs in the package, all eighteen songs would have fitted on to one CD - the combined playing time is just over one hour. Disco one consists of his mellower acoustic material while disc two is electric and raw.

This reviewer must make an admission, whilst being aware of the name Ben Harper I have never heard any of his previous albums. On a recent trip to Australia whilst browsing in a music store I noticed several teenage girls who you might have thought would be into Robbie Williams were looking enthusiastically in the Ben Harper section of the CD racks so maybe Harper is more popular down under.

Of the songs on the mellow disc four of the songs feature a string section, which combined with Harper's softer vocals cant help but sound like Nick Drake to this listener. "Picture In A Frame" has a piano motif reminiscent of Bob Dylan's "Its All Over Now Baby Blue". Harper gives a further example of his musical miniery on "Happy Ever After In Your Eyes" where he sounds
like Cat Stevens. "Crying wont Help You Now" is the first disc highlight with it's affecting lullaby like chorus.

On Disc 2 "Better Way" adopts an Eastern Influence with veteran musician David Ludley featured on trombone. "Black Rain" written and recorded the day after Hurricane Katrina struck the Southern United States is obviously influenced by the psychedelic soul Norman Whitfield concocted for the Temptations. "Get It Like You Like It" shows the likes of Primal Scream they are not the only ones who can create that Rolling Stones late sixties / early seventies vibe. "The Way You Found Me" has a jazzy feel who with stand up bass and some scorching slide guitar from Harper.

If this album expands Ben Harpers audience beyond his enthusiastic followers, well probably not, but it made this reviewer want to explore his back catalogue

Derek McCann

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