Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ben Harper- Lifeline

Eight albums in just over a dozen years: validation that Ben Harper--mind or body--rarely rests, be it on the road with backing jam band The Criminals or buried in a studio, where the gifted singer-songwriter lays down his brand of peace-chanting, love-tilting music. His latest is lighter on the rock, with a greater emphasis on gospel, blues, and deeply burning soul. Harper isn't concerned about letting listeners inside that soul, confessing in the title track, "I don't want to wait a lifetime/Yours or mine." The solo acoustic closer is classic wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve, a trait that seems to drift in and out of songs like the ominous ballad "Younger than Yesterday," which remembers earlier days being better days, or its mood-opposite "Say You Will," where the exultance of a flamboyant piano and gospel backing vocals offset cheesy lines such as "love you like a candle loves a flame." The latter is a standout, along with the bluesy opener "Fight Outta You"; the island-splashed "In the Colors," which recalls early-'70s Van Morrison; and "Put It on Me," with its brilliant lyric, "She cuts cherry pie when she looks you in the eye." All eyes, as his legion builds, are on Ben Harper. All ears, too.

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