Thursday, May 26, 2011

Give Till It's Gone

This is only the second Ben Harper album I own (first being White Lies For Dark Times), but I've heard a couple of his solo stuff and his previous outings with the Innocent Criminals. I like that he doesn't confine himself to one genre, always mixing in all kinds of musical styles on his records, and excelling in all areas. This latest one is no different. Recorded in Jackson Browne's studio, this could be considered a Relentless7 record (same band from 2009), though it's marketed as a solo effort. Seen Ben live twice so far, and he's a killer slide guitarist.

The album opens with mellow rocker, Don't Give Up On Me Now, that reminds me of something from Tom Petty & The Hearbreakers' Echo. And it closes with some real badass shit. Some of the songs here sound like he's still thinking about his divorce from actress Laura Dern. The man has a knack for putting some country and R&B flavors into the songs, as evident in Feel Love and Waiting On A Sign. And for some sexy southern blues, you got a number called Dirty Little Lover. The feel-good Rock N' Roll Is Free was made for the radio, and according to Ben, he was inspired to write it after watching Neil Young perform Rockin' In The Free World at Hyde Park! How cool is that?

The biggest and nicest surprise here though is Ringo Starr playing drums on two songs, the Beatle-esque Revolver-era Spilling Faith. That five second intro fill alone proves the Englishman still has the chops in him. Then it goes into the next song, a long psychedelic impromptu jam session; it obviously sounds like the band was having too much fun to stop, and they let it carry on for almost six minutes before you hear Ringo making some funny remark. I was just thinking about the concept of the album, which is sadly becoming more of a lost art today. It doesn't necessarily have to flow in a certain way (in a Pink Floydian kinda way) for it to work. It just needs to be chalked full of really good songs. Give Till It's Gone is one example of that.