In Defense of My Admiration for Ben Harper

Originally posted on April 4, 2006. Edited by me. I can't always be funny. Geez.

Okay, this will be a double update day. Why? Because I want to keep your needs for comedy satiated, while still making this post. And, no doubt, with exams and papers, this will be the last one(s) for another couple of weeks.

Recent and recurring comments from particular people (ahem... Dan...ahem...) have equated my inflated enjoyment of the music of Ben Harper (and subsequently the Innocent Criminals) with some need to enter the contract of matrimony with him. In fact, this is often equated with anything I take enjoyment with, but most often it has been in conversations about Ben Harper.

However, this is not the only reason for this post. The other reason is due to a recent discussion I had with another (actually it is a conversation I have had with several people over the past year, but the linked is the most recent) about the talent of screaming.

Essentially the purpose of this post is to give a sort of review for Ben Harper's new album Both Sides of the Gun. It is a great album. I accidentally picked up the special edition (not knowing there was a regular one) and visually it is great. It has a nice box, comes with some stickers, sheet music, and it looks purty. It came with an extra disc too, which is nice to have, but it isn't anything particularily special (5 slightly different, or live, versions of the songs on the album, and one live old song).

The album itself is broken into two parts, which Harper himself has said wasn't necessary, but each album has a different tone, which lended itself to the separation. Ultimately I like the first disc better for two reasons. a) It is softer, and I have always been a bigger fan of Ben Harper's (or anyone's) softer stuff. b) I already had a version of two of the songs on mp3, one of which I heard in concert, as well as another. Essentially I already knew a third of the disc. The disc is very experimental, with a lot of strings involved, which I love. This is not to mention that the single, Better Way, from the release is apparently an homage to my favourite Beatles song (and high up on my best songs of all time list), Norwegian Wood. Both have the sitar as a major instrument, you see. Anyways, that is just a quick review, and not the ultimate reason for this post. Just an endorsement for you to go pick it up.

The real reason is because I noticed something in this disc. On two occasions Harper screams. And screams emotionally. And imperfectly. There are cracks in his voice. He doesn't stay on key. Basically, he isn't Chester. But that makes it all the better. Which is not hostility against Chester, but an affirmation of the amazing authenticity of Harper.

You see, the thing I find most amazing about Harper is that somehow he means his lyrics. Still. Even after years of performing the same song, you can tell, when he is performing, that he still means what he sings, he still feels the emotions of when he wrote them as if he could have written them yesterday. I have seen three live performances on DVD, and one live, and this has been a constant.

You might say that this is just a show. But I don't think so. If a man is willing to scream on his new CD, even in the single itself, and scream imperfectly, showing the emotion behind it, I have a tendency to believe that he means it. That being said, it is difficult to understand how he can still be so passionate about presumably stale lyrics (not from the new album, but from as many as ten years ago). He doesn't perform, he shares. And, for that reason, I will continue to profess the awesomeness of Ben Harper despite those who might claim it is some sort of homosexual love.

No comments: