Ben Harper: Diamonds On The Inside

Ben Harper: Diamonds On The Inside

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Ben Harper

Album: Diamonds On The Inside
Label: Virgin

Ben Harper has never been shy about expanding his palette and exploring his idiosyncrasies, a tendency that's made the quality of each of his five studio albums hard to predict: He's been near-perfect (on 1997's gorgeous The Will To Live), uneven (on 1999's surprisingly straightforward Burn To Shine), and mostly disappointing (on 1995's heavy-handed Fight For Your Mind). On the long-awaited Diamonds On The Inside, Harper assuredly rushes through virtually all of his available quirks, flaws, and genres of choice, in a mad rush that's equally exhilarating and exhausting. As always, his honeyed voice is warm and tender enough to lend graceful balance to even his most ill-advised endeavors–the clunky funk of "Bring The Funk," the rote blues-rock of "Temporary Remedy," the half-hearted hard rock of "So High So Low"–but it really shines on the tracks that bring Harper's flair for subtlety to the fore. Diamonds On The Inside does wonders with warm devotionals, with "When She Believes," "Blessed To Be A Witness," and the worldly "Picture Of Jesus" radiating a sincerity missing from the plodding, preachy reggae exercise "With My Own Two Hands." Harper's insistence on throwing in something for just about everyone keeps Diamonds On The Inside from cohering, but at least it's got something for just about everyone.

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