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Ben Harper: Give Till It’s Gone

C

Ben Harper

Album: Give Till It’s Gone
Label: Virgin

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Is Ben Harper the poor man’s Lenny Kravitz, or the smarter, more credible Lenny Kravitz? On Give Till It’s Gone, Harper makes another convincing case for deserving the latter, slightly less dubious distinction. Proof that you can have all the right influences and still not grasp what made them great, Harper has been plying his classic rock-worshipping shtick for so long that he’s able to corral actual classic-rockers to record with him. Jackson Browne lends his ageless harmony vocals to the earnest ballad “Pray That Our Love Sees The Dawn,” while Ringo Starr drops in to jam on the Beatles pastiche “Spilling Faith” and the much better psych-blues instrumental “Get There From Here.” Harper’s weakness has always been his lack of a discernable musical personality that stands apart from the giants he’s cribbing from. But Give Till It’s Gone is passable outdoor summer-festival rock—all big riffs and grandly oversized gestures about simple, relatable stuff like love (the Neil Young rip-off “Feel Love”), faith (“Spilling Faith”), and the transformative power of rock ’n’ roll, man (the dumb but catchy “Rock N’ Roll Is Free”). It’s just a shame that Harper didn’t package it with a beach ball and mud pit.