Ben Harper

Give Till It's Gone

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After the sidestep trio with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur in A Fistful of Mercy, a trio that netted the all-too-sleepy As I Call You Down, guitar hero Ben Harper reconvenes his Relentless7 bandmates -- Jason Mozersky, guitar; Jesse Ingalls, bass and keys; and Jordan Richardson, drums -- for Give Till It's Gone. The 11-song set runs the gamut of Harper's many styles. There are midtempo rockers such as the intimate first-person confessional "Don't Give Up on Me Now," which examines the distance between what a man aspires to be and what he actually is. The title of "I Will Not Be Broken" may be anthemic, but the song is a moody -- bordering on angry -- minor-key waltz that melds acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and muffled percussion in an atmospheric blanket. Harper gets his volume on in the lyrically mindless but harder psych rock of "Rock n' Roll Is Free." While he claims the song was inspired by Neil Young, it doesn't live up to his muse's reckless knife-edged example. Ringo Starr makes two appearances here, as co-writer and drummer on the over-produced Beatlesque "Spilling Faith," which gives way to a much more interesting instrumental addendum called "Get There from Here," allowing the Relentless7, Harper, and Starr to really cut loose and play. It's dissonant, ragged and woolly, and drenched in noisy, blown-out production. Harper's moving "Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn" is a midtempo ballad that features Jackson Browne's inimitable harmony vocals, adding the necessary depth to a lyric that reveals the aforementioned distance between the man in the mirror and the one looking at him. Harper allows his soul groove voice in "Waiting on a Sign," which in turn gives way to the screaming '90s-centric funk-rock of "Dirty Little Lover," with slide guitars ablaze. He's best in the louder numbers mentioned above, the stomping dissonant syncopation in "Clearly Severely," and "Do It for You, Do It for Us." The latter is the album's closing track; it walks a stiletto's edge between melodic psychedelia and stomping heavy rock. While nowhere near as focused as 2009's White Lies for Dark Times, Give Till It's Gone does possess moments when all of Harper's gifts as a writer and guitarist are evidently clear.

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