Live from the Montreal International Jazz Festival

Ben Harper and Relentless7 / Ben Harper

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Live from the Montreal International Jazz Festival Review

by Thom Jurek

Ben Harper is no stranger to live albums. This is his sixth. That said, it is the first with the Relentless 7, an Austin TX-based trio Harper hooked up with to record the stellar White Lies for Dark Times. Basically, this CD/DVD package is a support gig for the White Lies album. The songs from it -- and a few others -- have been lived in for a while, and the band's internal communication language has developed to the instinctual level. The interplay between between Harper and Relentless 7 is nothing short of explosive. Having Jason Mozersky as a guitar foil adds to the sheer rock quotient of this performance -- check the opener, a new track, “Faster Slower Disappear Come Around," for initial evidence of how fluidly the pair works together. Bassist Jesse Ingalls is a monster; his work walks a knife’s edge between classic Billy Cox rhythm-centric groove and the funkiness of Bernard Odum, adding an entirely different dimension to Harper’s live sound. Jordan Richardson's drumming is deeply influenced by more power-driven classic rock drummers like John Bonham and Keith Moon, though he doesn’t use as much flash -- and doesn’t need to. The entire gig is loud as hell and credit goes to Harper and Danny Kalb for not dressing it up. It struts and swaggers with orgiastic guitar heroics -- check “Why Must You Always Wear Black” and the cover of Jimi Hendrix's “Red House.” There are wah-wah-driven power anthems such as “Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart)," and “Shimmer & Shine,” as well. Nonetheless, it does contain some spacious, soulful interludes like “Faithfully Remain,” but his nugget, “Serve Your Soul,” is reinvented as a slide guitar romp here. There’s also a quirky cover of David Bowie's “Under Pressure” that’s a crowd-pleaser, and the band takes it to the limit then breaks it wide open. The DVD contains the entire show and adds two more White Lies titles to the middle of the mix in “Skin Thin” and “Fly One Time." This is the loudest, rawest, most unhinged Ben Harper live to date.

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