Ben Harper & Relentless 7 – White Lies for Dark Times.

Let me start by telling you what I like about Ben Harper & Relentless 7’s White Lies for Dark Times; the whole album

Ben Harper & Relentless 7

 rocks! Seems the new backing band brings out the rock that’s been buried behind some of Ben’s more jammey tendencies. On some previous releases I found my self wishing that his exceptional guitar playing was front and center on more songs. This album is certainly Ben’s rock album.

 Though I truly love this album, what worries me most about it is that it rocks so much. That may seem a contradiction of my earlier statement but let me break it down. I discovered Ben Harper soon after the release of Live from Mars. I was on a day trip to UMass and stopped at the local record store in the center of town. I don’t know what prompted me to buy it. I was only vaguely aware of him by name and don’t remember ever having heard him before. The rock gods were smiling on me that day and I fell immediately in love, quickly buying the entire back catalog to catch up.

 What made me fall in love with those early records was the diverseness of the music they contained. Ben had this unbelievable ability to move effortlessly through reggae, hip-hop, ballads and full-on rock. There was a variety to the disparate musical styles that flowed together so naturally. The style was uniquely Ben Harper.

 Now when Ben Harper rocks out full-on for an entire album I find myself feeling a little empty. When Ben strips out everything else and leaves just the rock he runs the risk of becoming Lenny Kravitz. And becoming Lenny Kravitz would be a terrible thing. Ben deserves better than to become relegated to one-great-song-per-album status. His talents have so much more to offer.

 Now that you’ve heard my disappointments about this record let me tell you all the things I really enjoy about it, and there are many. I am a sucker for Ben’s style of guitar playing. He brings such a contemporary take to what would otherwise sound like an old lap steel or slide guitar. And Ben’s guitar is all over this album. The couple of ballads on this record are likewise great. I’ve found myself skipping over them on recent records, but here on White Lies for Dark Times he seems to have returned to his early ballad style. That tender falsetto is front and center and brings a sentimentality back to the songs that has been missing for a long time. For me the standout track is what amounts to the title track, Shimmer and Shine. Here’s where that ability to bounce around the spectrum peeks through. This is a guitar rocker all the way with fuzzed out guitars and plenty of solos, but the vocals move effortlessly from aggressive to tender and back again. The lyrics themselves make the same journey; smashing peace and violence together against the rocks. An utterly beautiful song from an album that is a respectable addition to the Ben Harper catalog.

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~ by spinthis45 on August 29, 2009.

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