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Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals Burn to Shine

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 22, 1999


Although relatively unknown in the world of modern music (videos of his pretty face are not run 24/7), the versatile musical stylings of Ben Harper are some that could give the more radio-friendly musician Beck a run for his money.

Ben Harper's fusion of smooth, sultry and shivery vocals backed by a wide variety of musical styles including country, blues, rock, folk and even gospel make for an eclectic album that leaves all who listen to it yearning for more.

Burn to Shine is an album characterized by a number of religious images, all of which contribute to the passionate way in which Harper sings. On the song "Less," Harper sings in an angst-filled voice, "You'd shake hands with Jesus, and you still would not believe." In the song "The Woman in You," Harper sings in a high-pitched, shaky voice on the verge of collapse, telling his audience, "We can both remove our halos because even angels need love."

The versatility of the album is the thing that keeps it interesting, and more importantly, provides an outlet for the many talents Harper possesses. The song "Suzie Blue" begins with a scratchy, bluesy "feel" that eventually leads into a ragtime band tune, complete with clarinets, trumpets and a banjo. "Steal My Kisses" is a throwback to the hip-hop rhymes of the 80s and showcases Harper's beat-boxin' talents.

The one thing that leaves a lasting impression on any who listen, however, is not the religious imagery or the musical versatility, but Harper's strong, beautiful and flexible voice. Harper can go from a fragile voice on the verge of cracking, to a smooth, cool howl, la Jimi Hendrix.

Burn to Shine is a record backed by real emotion, feeling and talent, something the current pop kings severely lack.-Barry McGuire

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