Both Sides of the Gun [Special Edition]

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
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 ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
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.
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: 3/21/2006
  • Label: Virgin Records Us
  • UPC: 094635744729
  • Catalog Number: 57447

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Ben Harper Primary Artist, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Guitar, 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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Yet another amazing album....

    I was first introduced to Ben Harper but a few short years ago but from the first song I fell in love with his voice and the music. Of course I had to have this album as well and believe me, it's worth it! The songs are amazing and just like all his other work, this CD will draw you in. I highly recommend this CD to Ben Harper fans and to those who enjoy great music!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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