Both Sides of the Gun [Special Edition]

Both Sides of the Gun [Special Edition]

5.0 1
by Ben Harper

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Retro-minded funk-folk-rocker Ben Harper has always reveled in a split musical personality, but he's never done it with such clarity and confidence as on this sprawling set. For the benefit of folks who prefer to experience Harper's personas one at a time, Both Sides of the Gun is divided into separate acoustic and electric discs. The second disc contains mostSee more details below


Retro-minded funk-folk-rocker Ben Harper has always reveled in a split musical personality, but he's never done it with such clarity and confidence as on this sprawling set. For the benefit of folks who prefer to experience Harper's personas one at a time, Both Sides of the Gun is divided into separate acoustic and electric discs. The second disc contains most of Both Sides' most intriguing elements -- both in terms of the songwriting and the adventurous arrangements, which extend to sitars, vibraphones, and full-on string sections. Harper uses the thicker sound to up the emotional ante on some of the more serious tracks (the Hurricane Katrina paean "Black Rain," for instance, pits a moody orchestration against a psychedelic-soul backbeat reminiscent of late-'60s Motown) and to punch up the playfulness of winking interludes like the Stones-y "Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating." The acoustic set finds Harper in more familiar territory, unwinding plangent ballads with a deft blend of emotion and restraint. At times -- as on the hoary "Picture in a Frame" -- he doesn't quite get that balance right, but that's due more to his aptitude for turning on the melodic schmaltz than to anything else. When he settles into the folksy groove that he, along with contemporaries such as Jack Johnson, has mined so well over the years (see the New Morning-styled "Morning Yearning"), he makes it easy for the listener to come aboard for the long run. And that kind of friendliness is always welcome.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Marisa Brown
After seven albums and 12 years in the game, it can stop being said that Ben Harper is hard to categorize, because at this point, the fact that he always incorporates diverse elements -- from folk to hard rock to funk -- into his music and makes something very much his own is a given. He's practically created a genre. So maybe that's why it's so surprising that Both Sides of the Gun, a two-disc album, has little of that very thing that makes him so unique. Instead, he chooses to show off the range of his musical interests, and ends up with something closer to a compilation than a Ben Harper album. The softer, acoustically based disc is full of pretty love songs and sweetly strummed guitars, and though Harper has done this before and kept his own style intact (in "Two Hands of a Prayer" and "When She Believes," for example), here he comes off sounding a bit boring. He hasn't forgotten himself completely: both "Never Leave Lonely Alone" and "Crying Won't Help You Now" are good songs, sounding strongly of him while also experimenting with other styles (Latin/French and gospel, respectively), but almost all the other tracks could have been pulled off any run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter album from the past ten years. Things improve slightly on the other, louder, disc ("Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating" is all electric blues, complete with a distorted slide guitar solo, and "Serve Your Soul" is the most Harper-ish of everything, blending folk guitar, pure rock, raw blues, and socially conscious lyrics into one eight-minute masterpiece), but there's still that sampler-record feeling there. "Engraved Invitation" and "Get It Like You Like It" are heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, "Both Sides of the Gun" alludes to Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, and "Better Way" is practically a tribute (at least musically) to Prince's "7." Harper has always borrowed from other artists, but he's also always added enough of himself to make it not quite so...blatant. It's not that he isn't able to perform such a diverse selection: there are plenty of excellent cuts and most of the album is quite good. Harper is a fantastically talented musician, and he has really developed his voice since Diamonds on the Inside and is unafraid to do things with it, going from a croon to a scream and always sounding great. But why he's copying other people's styles instead of building on his own is both odd and disappointing, because he's always been able to experiment before while also preserving his individuality. If in Both Sides of the Gun Harper is trying to show his audience what a wide variety of music he can cover, he certainly accomplishes that. But if he's trying to create an album that is really about him, he doesn't quite deliver. Ben Harper is in there, don't worry, but he can be a little hard to find. [The special edition includes a sticker, the scores for "Morning Yearning" and "Better Way," and a six-song bonus disc. The music is a nice addition: the alternate versions of "Reason to Mourn" and "Morning Yearning" throw out the strings tracks from the originals, leaving a simple background that is perfect for an especially soulful Harper. "Get It Like You Like It," recorded live in Nashville on August 2, 2005, is good, too, though strangely Harper sounds more like Boz Scaggs than Mick Jagger, while "Beloved One," recorded one day before in Atlanta, is practically identical to the version found on Burn to Shine.]

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Product Details

Release Date:
Virgin Records Us


Disc 1

  1. Morning Yearning  - Ben Harper
  2. Waiting for You  - Ben Harper
  3. Picture in a Frame  - Ben Harper
  4. Never Leave Lonely Alone  - Ben Harper
  5. Sweet Nothing Serenade  - Ben Harper
  6. Reason to Mourn  - Ben Harper
  7. More Than Sorry  - Ben Harper
  8. Cryin' Won't Help You Now  - Ben Harper
  9. Happy Everafter in Your Eyes  - Ben Harper

Disc 2

  1. Better Way  - Ben Harper
  2. Both Sides of the Gun  - Ben Harper
  3. Engraved Invitation  - Ben Harper
  4. Black Rain  - Ben Harper
  5. Gather 'Round the Stone  - Ben Harper
  6. Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating  - Ben Harper
  7. Get It Like You Like It  - Ben Harper
  8. The Way You Found Me  - Ben Harper
  9. Serve Your Soul  - Ben Harper

Disc 3

  1. Gather 'Round the Stone  - Ben Harper
  2. Reason to Mourn  - Ben Harper
  3. Get It Like You Like It  - Ben Harper
  4. Waiting For You  - Ben Harper
  5. Morning Yearning  - Ben Harper
  6. Beloved One  - Ben Harper

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ben Harper   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Percussion,Piano,Drums,Vocals,Slide Guitar,Vibes,Weissenborn
Charlie Musselwhite   Background Vocals
David Lindley   Tamboura
Danny Kalb   Guitar
Greg Kurstin   Piano,Hammond Organ
Leon Mobley   Percussion,Background Vocals
J.P. Plunier   Drums
Scott Thomas   Background Vocals
Michael Ward   Bass,Guitar,Bass Guitar,Background Vocals,12-string Guitar
Jason Yates   Keyboards,Background Vocals
Juan Nelson   Bass Guitar
Jose Medeles   Drums
Timothy Loo   Cello
Jan Ghazi   Electric Guitar,Background Vocals
Alyssa Park   Violin
Jesse Ingalls   Bass
Jason Mozersky   Guitar
Marc Ford   Guitar
David Palmer   Keyboards
Joel Pargman   Violin
Oliver Francis Charles   Drums,Background Vocals
Sue Chase   Background Vocals
Natasha Cockrell   Background Vocals
Matt Cory   Bass
Michelle Griepentrog   Background Vocals
Jennifer Ohrstrom   Background Vocals
Patrick Rosalez   Violin
Nick Sandro   Bass,Background Vocals
William Gus Seyffert   Bass
Jordan Richardson   Drums
Brett Banducci   Viola

Technical Credits

Ben Harper   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Danny Kalb   Composer,Engineer
Stephen Marcussen   Mastering
Leon Mobley   Composer
Michael Ward   Composer
Jason Yates   Composer
Todd Burke   Engineer
Juan Nelson   Composer
Oliver Charles   Composer

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