Monday, November 22, 2010

Ben Harper - Diamons on the Inside

It's retro album review time again!  This time I'm listening to Ben Harper's 2003 offering, Diamonds on the Inside.

This is a really, really good album.  Just the right mix of blues and funk, each song has the feeling and emotion to evoke something inside of each of us.  The album starts out stronger than it finishes, in my opinion, but that last track makes my heart hurt, it's so sweet and sad.

The title track is just so, so good.  I feel like the past week or so, I just can't get enough of it.  I've always loved this song, and it's what made me pick up the album in the first place so many years ago, but I feel like I'm only just now rediscovering how great the whole album is.  There's something a little gospel-soul-revival about the album at times, and it's great.  But this song!  You just want to crank it up on a sunny day, and smile and sing along.  And maybe sway a little.  Reading Keith Richards' book has had a profound effect on my music tastes and the way that I listen to music lately, and in my hunt for more blues and R&B in my iPod, I put this album on the other day.  Lately, I find that I'm focusing more on the roll and less on the rock (Thanks, Keef).  Some standout songs:

With My Own Two Hands - I've somehow gotten more familiar and comfortable with the Ben Harper/Jack Johnson slow, lullaby-esque duet version of this track, and allowed myself to forget how cool this album version is.  A little reggae rhythm, a little bluesy guitar - it strikes just the right chord.  This totally makes me want to dance, while the slowed down version is such a sweet lullaby.  A good tune overall.
When It's Good - I feel like this is a classic old blues song rather than a BH original, but maybe that just goes to say how good Mr. Harper is.  He's an old soul, I reckon.  Or maybe it is an old song.  I'm not entirely sure.  I just feel like I can hear an older, rougher version of this playing in my head whenever I listen to this song.  The version in my head is playing on vinyl, and was recorded on 8-track or something.  Maybe at Muscle Shoals.  I don't even know - I feel that way about 1/2 of this album, I think.  This is tied with the title track for my favorite on the album.

Brown Eyed Blues - It's killing me that I can't currently think if the classic mo-town song that this reminds me of.  But I can't think of the damn song.  Either way, this song has a great, funky feel to it, and there are some cool riffs in here.  It really does have sort of a cool mo-town feel to it.  
Touch From Your Lust and Temporaty Remedy - Since Keef has me paying more attention to guitar sounds lately, it's worth pointing out how cool the fuzzy guitars on these two tracks sound.  These songs are both a little more rock and have a slightly more modern feel than most of the rest of the album, too.
Bring the Funk -   Ummm, duh - I love the funk. This feels a little like Bushwalla's funk to me.  I guess maybe that's a function of the whole modern funk thing, but I'll just throw it out there again - if you haven't checked out Bushwalla yet, you don't know what you're missing.  If you like Ben Harper, BW will totally do it for you.  Check him out.
So High So Low - I feel like the Black Keys are screaming out of this song at the beginning.  It's just got a really cool, down and dirty sort of feeling to it.  It's a great song, and another one that's a little more rockin than some of the rest of the album.
Amen Omen and Blessed to be a Witness - These are nice little tunes, and this is sort of what I mean about the church-y feeling, I guess, is these few soul tracks the album has got going on.  But church-y lyrics or no, get down to the music, and these are pretty cool tunes.  There's a lot going on with Blessed to be a Witness (more than you pick up at first listen, but give it a few trys), and it all comes together really nice.
She's Only Happy in the Sun - So sweet, but also SO sad.  Like I said at the outset, this song makes my heart hurt.  Pay attention to this one, and it'll really rope you in.  Might be my new favorite lullaby.

I like Ben Harper a lot; new and old, and whoever he's playing with, I seem to always be drawn into his stuff.  I've seen him live with DMB once or twice too, and he puts on a great show live.  Either way, this album has been on heavy rotation this past week or so, so I thought I'd throw something out there in support of it.  If you don't have it, check it out.

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