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Ben Harper: The Will To Live

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Ben Harper

Album: The Will To Live
Label: Virgin

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Ben Harper's first two albums (Welcome To The Cruel World and Fight For Your Mind) were soulful but spotty, with loads of promising moments: For every heavy-handed political statement about poverty, or recitation of Maya Angelou poetry, there were healthy doses of Harper's skilled Weissenborn guitar work, or an emotionally searing ballad, or a needed dose of humor. His new third album, The Will To Live, finally lives up to the considerable potential of its predecessors: The midtempo opening track, "Faded," hints at Harper's startling musical growth, shifting back and forth between palatable rock and an incongruous but effective acoustic interlude. It's not just his always-excellent Weissenborn work that makes his arrangements sound so inventive, either; "Homeless Child" sounds like nothing Harper has done before—it's like a cross between Lenny Kravitz and Doo Rag. He's matured as a lyricist as well, particularly on the harrowingly personal "Widow Of A Living Man," while "Roses From My Friends" is a diverse, beautiful epic ballad. If Ben Harper continues to improve at this rate, he could and should become a major musical figure in the years to come.