This is Ben Harper’s 10th studio album; his last contractual obligation for Virgin and it comes after his split with his wife actress Laura Dern. All of these events lead to a compilation of emotional songs that bring out a different Ben Harper than most of his other albums. Joining him on this one are his mates from the Relentless 7 along with none other than Ringo Starr drumming and getting co-writing credit on two of the tunes.
It seems like the turmoil in his life has brought him much needed inspiration and edge. The first two tunes on this release “Don’t Give Up On Me Now” and “I Will Not Be Broken” are heartfelt ballads. “I Will Not Be Broken” plays like Ben is trying to re-build his own psyche with the closing lines. ”I will not be broken / I won’t be turned away / When it’s too cold to breathe / and too dark to pray / I’ve come too far to give up / or to be turned around / I will not be broken / I will not go down”.
The album then switches gears on the next song “Rock And Roll Is Free” beginning with a great Jesse Ingalls bass line this one immediately turns into a Beatle-esque pop tune. Ben laying down a soaring slide track throughout the song, you can buy one of his signature lap slides on his web site for a mere $3000ish. Clever marketing is also at work in the other offerings on his website like T’s and autographed CD’s.
Ben deals us a left turn on the next tune “Feel Love”, it sounds like you have just wandered into a Ryan Adams recording session. Again Ben is known for his funky rootsy music but I don’t believe he has hit this genre yet but he nails it with this one fantastic tune that should have closed the album as it makes you feel as though he has healed a bit since the start.
“Clearly Severely” is another rocker that starts with a frantic beat and maintains it throughout the entire song. Lyrically tied to his personal life he asks “I’m tired of being sick / You’re sick of being tired / I have no idea how we got here”.
Next up are the two tunes with Ringo on the drums, “Spilling Faith” sounds as if it is a missing track off of Magical Mystery Tour, a jaunty piano driven / lyrical journey with Ben adding “”Traded a blue sky today / For the cold hard ground”. The song then transitions seamlessly into the 5 minute jam session “Get There From Here” evoking images of the White Album with random piano and slide over a steady bass ala Macca and studio chatter and laughter from the band at the end.
“Pray That Our Love Sees The Dawn” is a confessional of sorts for him and lyrically this is the Ben Harper everyone knows, stripped down acoustic and soulful. “Waiting On A Sign” is a nice bluesy rocker crossing over into some serious soul territory. Lyrically Ben lets it loose in the next tune “Dirty Little Lover,” with lines like “She is the kind of woman only a town like this could produce / just mean enough to hang a man / just kind enough to cut the noose.” The final tune “Do It For You, Do It For Us” starts with an old school funky disco bass line (did I just say that) and about 30 seconds into it tears into a major rocker. Switching back and forth between the two beats is smooth as Ben screams “I do it for you, I do it for us”.
Overall this latest album is probably Ben Harper’s best as he takes the listener through the cathartic progression of healing through letting go, highly recommended.
8.4 / 10
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