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Ben Harper - Both Sides Of The Gun

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Both Sides Of The Gun

Ben Harper

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After seven albums and 12 years in the game, it can stop being said that Ben Harper is hard to categorize, because at this point, the fact that he always incorporates diverse elements -- from folk to hard rock to funk -- into his music and makes something very much his own is a given. He's practically created a genre. So maybe that's why it's so surprising that Both Sides of the Gun, a two-disc album, has little of that very thing that makes him so unique. Instead, he chooses to show off the range of his musical interests, and ends up with something closer to a compilation than a Ben Harper album. The softer, acoustically based disc is full of pretty love songs and sweetly strummed guitars, and though Harper has done this before and kept his own style intact (in "Two Hands of a Prayer" and "When She Believes," for example), here he comes off sounding a bit boring. He hasn't forgotten himself completely: both "Never Leave Lonely Alone" and "Crying Won't Help You Now" are good songs, sounding strongly of him while also experimenting with other styles (Latin/French and gospel, respectively), but almost all the other tracks could have been pulled off any run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter album from the past ten years. Things improve slightly on the other, louder, disc ("Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating" is all electric blues, complete with a distorted slide guitar solo, and "Serve Your Soul" is the most Harper-ish of everything, blending folk guitar, pure rock, raw blues, and socially conscious lyrics into one eight-minute masterpiece), but there's still that sampler-record feeling there. "Engraved Invitation" and "Get It Like You Like It" are heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, "Both Sides of the Gun" alludes to Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, and "Better Way" is practically a tribute (at least musically) to Prince's "7." Harper has always borrowed from other artists, but he's also always added enough of himself to make it not quite so...blatant. It's not that he isn't able to perform such a diverse selection: there are plenty of excellent cuts and most of the album is quite good. Harper is a fantastically talented musician, and he has really developed his voice since Diamonds on the Inside and is unafraid to do things with it, going from a croon to a scream and always sounding great. But why he's copying other people's styles instead of building on his own is both odd and disappointing, because he's always been able to experiment before while also preserving his individuality. If in Both Sides of the Gun Harper is trying to show his audience what a wide variety of music he can cover, he certainly accomplishes that. But if he's trying to create an album that is really about him, he doesn't quite deliver. Ben Harper is in there, don't worry, but he can be a little hard to find.
© Marisa Brown /TiVo

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Both Sides Of The Gun

Ben Harper

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1
Morning Yearning
00:04:09

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Vibraphone, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Alyssa Park, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Timothy Loo, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brett Banducci, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Matt Cory, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Patrick Rosalez, Violin, AssociatedPerformer

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

2
Waiting For You
00:03:34

Michael Ward, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist, Bass (Vocal) - David Palmer, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Piano, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Timothy Loo, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

3
Picture In A Frame
00:04:36

Michael Ward, Composer, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Oliver Charles, Composer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jason Yates, Composer, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Leon Mobley, Composer, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Juan Nelson, Composer - Oliver Francis Charles, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Juan D. Nelson, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

4
Never Leave Lonely Alone
00:02:51

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Guitar, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Matt Cory, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

5
Sweet Nothing Serenade
00:02:44

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Vibraphone, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

6
Reason To Mourn
00:04:26

Michael Ward, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jason Yates, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Alyssa Park, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Timothy Loo, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brett Banducci, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Matt Cory, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Patrick Rosalez, Violin, AssociatedPerformer

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

7
More Than Sorry
00:03:24

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Composer, Mixer, Engineer, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

8
Cryin' Won't Help You Now
00:02:35

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jean Pierre Plunier, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Ellen Harper, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Jan Ghazi, Electric Guitar, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Sue Chase, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Nick Sandro, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

9
Happy Everafter In Your Eyes
00:02:30

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Piano, Vibraphone, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Alyssa Park, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Timothy Loo, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Joel Pargman, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brett Banducci, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Matt Cory, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records America Inc.

DISC 2

1
Better Way (War Mix)
00:03:58

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - David Lindley, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

2
Both Sides Of The Gun
00:02:44

Greg Kurstin, Hammond B3, AssociatedPerformer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

3
Engraved Invitation
00:02:55

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

4
Black Rain
00:02:56

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Drums, Piano, Vibraphone, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jason Yates, Composer, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Alyssa Park, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Timothy Loo, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Joel Pargman, Violin, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Brett Banducci, Viola, AssociatedPerformer - Matt Cory, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

5
Gather 'Round The Stone
00:03:06

Michael Ward, Guitar, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Charlie Musselwhite, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Jason Yates, Keyboards, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Leon Mobley, Percussion, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Oliver Francis Charles, Drums, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Juan D. Nelson, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

6
Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating
00:02:34

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Producer, Drums, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist, Bass (Vocal) - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jason Mozersky, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

7
Get It Like You Like It
00:03:28

Michael Ward, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Scott Thomas, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Jason Yates, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Leon Mobley, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Marc Ford, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Oliver Francis Charles, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Juan D. Nelson, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

8
The Way You Found Me
00:02:53

Michael Ward, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Greg Kurstin, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Guitar, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jose Medeles, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Michelle Griepentrog, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Natasha Cockrell, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - William Gus Seyffert, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal) - Jennifer Ohrstrom, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

9
Serve Your Soul
00:08:21

Stephen Marcussen, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Piano, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer - Mike Laza, Asst. Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Danny Kalb, Mixer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Jason Mozersky, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Jordan Richardson, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Jesse Ingulls, AssociatedPerformer, Bass (Vocal)

(C) 2006 Virgin Records America, Inc. ℗ 2006 Virgin Records

Album Description

After seven albums and 12 years in the game, it can stop being said that Ben Harper is hard to categorize, because at this point, the fact that he always incorporates diverse elements -- from folk to hard rock to funk -- into his music and makes something very much his own is a given. He's practically created a genre. So maybe that's why it's so surprising that Both Sides of the Gun, a two-disc album, has little of that very thing that makes him so unique. Instead, he chooses to show off the range of his musical interests, and ends up with something closer to a compilation than a Ben Harper album. The softer, acoustically based disc is full of pretty love songs and sweetly strummed guitars, and though Harper has done this before and kept his own style intact (in "Two Hands of a Prayer" and "When She Believes," for example), here he comes off sounding a bit boring. He hasn't forgotten himself completely: both "Never Leave Lonely Alone" and "Crying Won't Help You Now" are good songs, sounding strongly of him while also experimenting with other styles (Latin/French and gospel, respectively), but almost all the other tracks could have been pulled off any run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter album from the past ten years. Things improve slightly on the other, louder, disc ("Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating" is all electric blues, complete with a distorted slide guitar solo, and "Serve Your Soul" is the most Harper-ish of everything, blending folk guitar, pure rock, raw blues, and socially conscious lyrics into one eight-minute masterpiece), but there's still that sampler-record feeling there. "Engraved Invitation" and "Get It Like You Like It" are heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, "Both Sides of the Gun" alludes to Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, and "Better Way" is practically a tribute (at least musically) to Prince's "7." Harper has always borrowed from other artists, but he's also always added enough of himself to make it not quite so...blatant. It's not that he isn't able to perform such a diverse selection: there are plenty of excellent cuts and most of the album is quite good. Harper is a fantastically talented musician, and he has really developed his voice since Diamonds on the Inside and is unafraid to do things with it, going from a croon to a scream and always sounding great. But why he's copying other people's styles instead of building on his own is both odd and disappointing, because he's always been able to experiment before while also preserving his individuality. If in Both Sides of the Gun Harper is trying to show his audience what a wide variety of music he can cover, he certainly accomplishes that. But if he's trying to create an album that is really about him, he doesn't quite deliver. Ben Harper is in there, don't worry, but he can be a little hard to find.
© Marisa Brown /TiVo

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