Ben Harper CD review [Virgin]

Music Reviews
Ben Harper CD review [Virgin]
Mar 11, 2003, 22:56

BEN HARPER Diamonds on the Inside CD

Ben Harper obviously had something to prove on Diamonds on the Inside. He's repeatedly been labeled as something of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none artist. Here, he's still all over the map, but his soulful vocals and increasingly exquisite slide guitar earn him at least some modicum of forgiveness.

The disc leads with “My Own Two Hands,” an earnest, Rasta-inspired plea to get off your ass and do something productive. After that public service announcement, Harper shifts into a wicked little slide-guitar boogie and starts moaning about the elusive ecstasy found in the company of an unpredictable woman. Harper is best when he's wrapping that sensuous, soulful voice around some fat, organic guitars or a Hammond B3. He does just that on the gorgeous ballad “When She Believes.” But a few tracks later, he embarrasses himself with a by-the-numbers attempt at 70s funk, a la Parliament.

Some of the record is blues, some of it is country, some of it is southern-fried soul, some of it is weak funk. But overall, much of it works.

Harper still hasn't answered those who dismiss him as a copycat, but he copies his heroes much better than most. This album is a step forward for Harper, but he won't reach the next rung on the artistic ladder until he hones a musical voice of his own. [Virgin]

-Michael Coleman

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