display | more...

Each new album of Ben Harper signifies a musical growth. But where most other musicians try to further expand the musical style they have adopted, Ben's approach is to broaden his musical horizon. His fourth album with Virgin records, Burn to Shine is no exception to this. The record incorporates a stunning array of musical styles, including blues, folk, jazz, rock, and gospel.

Ben Harper's roots are the delta blues, with strong influences of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Taj Mahal, and Bob Dylan. At first, Burn to Shine appears to be a radical change from Ben's blues/folk approach of Welcome to the Cruel World, and Fight for your Mind. With its more electrified sound Burn to Shine is a continuation of the musical direction that Ben has taken since the preceding album, The Will to Live. Still, each song is rooted in the blues but it is not the traditional Mississippi delta style; instead, you will recognize the blues in the feelings, emotions, and spirit of Ben's songs.

Ben's signature instruments, the 70-100 year old Weissenborn guitars don't get a lot of play on this album. In the past, Ben amplified the acoustic Weissenborns to obtain feedback, comparable to that of an electric guitar. However, the sound of these antique instruments can only be pushed to a certain degree. To overcome this problem, a lot of the guitar play on Burn to Shine was done with a custom built guitar, the Asher Ben Harper lap slide guitar, designed in collaboration with luthier Bill Asher. The guitar is a semi-solid, semi-hollow hybrid between an acoustic and an electric guitar. It combines the resonance and sustain of both instrument types.

Burn to Shine is much more a concerted effort of Ben Harper and his band, The Innocent Criminals than his previous albums. In fact, this is Ben's first album that lists the band on the outside cover. Together with bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Dean Butterworth and percussionist David Leach, Ben Harper forms a harmonic group.

Like the other Ben Harper records, this album contains emotional, spiritual, intense songs. It is definitely not an album to play in the background and ignore. Ben's mission is to move his audience. He pushes your senses, and then pulls... and sometimes let you go in a free fall. Even more than his preceding albums, Burn to Shine is an musical rollercoaster with emotional songs such as Two Hands of a Prayer directly followed by the raw, powerful sound of Please Bleed. It is not a "typical" Ben Harper album, but none of them are. I would recommend to first listen to Ben Harper's older albums to hear where he is coming from, and where he wants to take you.

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Burn to Shine (1999)
Virgin Records. Produced by J.P. Plunier.

  1. Alone
    A somber, longing, emotionally laden song. Alone bridges between Ben Harper's more folk influenced songs of his previous albums, and the more electrified work of this album.
  2. The Woman in you
    A beautifully soulful song. The guitar work is reminiscent of one of Ben Harper's greatest influences, Jimi Hendrix. Ben Harper carries the song with a high pitched falsetto, and emotional cries.
  3. Less
    This song has an angry grunge rock sound, this time carried by Ben Harper's Rickenbacker lap steel guitar.
  4. Two Hands of a Prayer
    An emotional ballad, breaking the powerful songs that precede and follow it.
  5. Please Bleed
    Like Less, this song features a raw grunge sound with plenty of electric guitar work. But this time, Ben's vocals are more soulful.
  6. Suzie Blue
    Ben Harper again changes gears, with Suzie Blue. This song sounds as if it was recorded in New Orleans in the 1920s. It is a wobbling jazz shuffle that features the backup of the Real Time Jazz Band.
  7. Steal my Kisses
    This song received plenty of airtime, although it must have surprised many unknowing buyers expecting a totally different sounding album. Steal my Kisses is a funky, soulful rock song with an interesting mix of human beatboxing.
  8. Burn to Shine
    Kicking it up a notch again, the energetic title track rocks like the older work by Clapton et al.
  9. Show me a little shame
    Show me a little Shame has the most obvious connections with the blues, with some gospel influences. Tyrone Downie of The Wailers plays keyboard on the song (and on The woman in you).
  10. Forgiven
    Beautiful slide guitar accompanies Ben Harper's powerful voice on this song.
  11. Beloved One
    A hymnal, emotional ballad. The song is musically not very complex, but has strong vocals.
  12. In the Lord's Arms
    A spiritual folk song concluding the album.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.