CD Reviews

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Oct 122004
 
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

Ben Shines on with the Help of Some Southern Comfort

Artist: Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama

Album: “There Will Be Light”

Gather all you know about Ben Harper’s music, take away his rock

side and add more soul. On “There Will Be Light,” Ben Harper uses

his usual formula for songwriting but has included many additional

vocals powered by the infamous Blind Boys of Alabama.

The result of the collaboration is a great southern rock

timepiece. The somber piano song “Where Could I Go” is equal parts

Ray Charles and B.B. King and is reminiscent of some classic blues.

On “Well, Well, Well” Harper and the Blind Boys stomp their feet

and chant “When you’re down on your knees with nothing left to

sell, try diggin’ a little deeper in the well, well, well.”

Harper adapts “Picture of Jesus” from his last album into a new

song with the same name but the boost of powerful gospel vocals.

“Satisfied Mind,” a fun porch anthem, discusses wealth: “How many

times have you heard someone say/if I had his money I’d do things

my way/but little do they know and its so hard to find/one rich man

in ten with a satisfied mind.”

On the song “Mother Pray” the vocals are the only instrument,

revealing the talent that defines Harper’s new album. The energy of

the Blues Brothers is exerted in the song “Church On Time.”

The highlight on “There Will Be Light” is a song by the same

name that tells of Ben Harper’s journey as a musician: “I’ve been

running ever since I was a child/some call it free/some call it

wild.”

Band Tries to Undo Extinction of Ska

Artist: Catch 22

Album: “Dinosaur Sounds”

Three-minute songs, punk guitars and horns survive Catch 22

despite the fallout of the short-lived ska music trend. On

“Dinosaur Sounds,” the ska sound, which has not been heard in

popular music for some years, has been redefined but has the

excitement of a fossil collection. However, the album is fun, and

Catch 22 has tapped into an aggressive way of blending music

genres. Their thrash-like tempos and vocal harmonies combine with

the influence of reggae, funk and R&B, and end up with a

collection of songs that all sound different.

“Regression” is a love song that is also the most aggressive

song on the album. “Good Times” reveals the band’s definite Sublime

influence. On “Beguile the Time,” Catch 22 speaks of war: “Look

around/Can’t you see that you’ve given souls up for keeps?/We send

in poor people to fight other poor people/We send in to kill while

we sit on our asses and watch green screens/It hits like a ton of

feathers/oh how it echoes.”

On an album anything but ground breaking, “Dinosaur” is fun for

ska fans, but for other listeners, it is a sound that is best left

65 million years in the past.

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