Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

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Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  MCTolen on Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:01 pm

Alright, it was REALLY REALLY cool to see everyone's personal responses on revisiting Welcome to the Cruel World. Hopefully it brought back some strong memories, emotions, let you rediscover some long loved songs or even gain a new appreciation for others. So, continuing on with Ben's "Sophomore" album, here's my revisit of Fight for Your Mind. Hopefully we'll spark even more responses!

Fight For Your Mind (Released 8/1/95)

Where Welcome to the Cruel World may have just scratched the surface of Ben's talent and potential, Fight For Your Mind brings down the sledgehammer! I think this album truly lays out the Ben Harper "blueprint" for what is, was and will be. They say you essentially have from the beginning of your life to make your first album, but I love it when an artist one-ups that first album and puts everything they can or wanted to do into it like it could be their last. Ben really breaks the ceiling on eclecticism here. You can just imagine the record execs were thinking "How the hell are we going to market this?!" From one song to the next its got folk, rock, soul, reggae, gospel, funk...all on the same album?! Little did they or anyone know that they were hearing music as it will be listened to in the 21st century. It's a classic Ben Harper album, but not without its flaws...

1. Oppression

Right from the beginning, you can tell this album sets a much different tone than Welcome to the Cruel World. It's darker, more aggressive and harder hitting. I dig the groove of the acoustic guitar, I could listen to it alone over and over. Then the percussion kicks in and if you're not careful you might blow your subwoofer. Which is cool, but it kind of annoys me because I always have to remember to turn the bass way down, especially in my crappy car factory stereo. Very cool start to the album, you know Ben means business this time around.

2. Ground on Down

This is the first song that Ben seems to say "Oh, did I not mention that I also LOVE Hendrix and Zeppelin too?!" AWESOME, feedback and the weissenborn getting punished likes its never been before. Always an all time favorite, but as good as it is I generally opt for the Live from Mars version. That version, which seems to be the way he always plays it live now, rocks even harder and he really cuts loose on the vocals taking to it to the limit. Am I right that in the original studio version he's playing the weissenborn, but in the Live from Mars versions and since then he plays it on the Asher lap?? If so, I think the Asher really does the song justice in this instance. This one is in constant rotation on my mountain bike rides.

3. Another Lonely Day

Sudden shift back down into folk territory. Like somebody just pulled the plug out of the guitar. Beautiful song in the vein of Walk Away. Ben's whisper like vocals and soft strumming fit the emotion of the song perfectly, so vulnerable and hurt. Another great break up song, but one I kinda have to be in the right mood to really listen to.

4. Please Me Like you Want to

I really like how after the previous break up song we get a great "kiss off" song. The mood shifts, hurt has turned to anger and bitterness. I love how Ben delivers these scornful lyrics with such restraint and yet you can sense the blood boiling under the surface..."Don't do me any favors, matter of fact why don't you do yourself a few. Your presence ain't nobody's blessing, I've got plenty of other things I could do" and "won't you spare me a little mercy, there's only so much that I can take." At times in my life when I felt hurt and angry after a relationship, this song made me feel like I had someone else in my corner.

5. Gold to Me

One of my all time fav's from the beginning. What can I say, at heart I love a great upbeat melody. I also love soul music. This was my first indication that deep down Ben had an inner Otis Redding waiting to bloom. Great bass line and slide guitar interplay. I always wished the tempo change and jam at the end didn't fade out so early. I really like the live version bootleg on the Pleasure and Pain DVD, especially since it goes right into Fight for your Mind (but I'll get to that later).

6. Burn One Down

I suspect that Ben probably despises having to play this song live anymore. Understandable, I still love to hear the song, but I'm sure we've all grown tired of the drunken frat guys yelling for Burn one Down the entire show (it's likely the only song they really know). Yet, it's still a classic song with Ben's reggae side coming full out. The acoustic guitar always reminds me of Marley's Redemption Song. However, this is another studio version I rarely listen to because I think it severely lacks the great energy and fun of the live version.

7. Excuse Me Mr.

This is one that didn't really grow on me until I heard the version on Live from Mars. The studio version is just too slow and the vocals sound so much more passionate in the live version. I also like the reggae version but it seems to sound too much like "My Own Two Hands." Definitely one of his best socially conscious songs, one of my favorite lyrics "cause Mr. when you get there they don't ask how much you saved, all they'll want to know Mr. is what you gave."

8. People Lead

This one also took a long time to grow on me, but the lyrics and the simple guitar are great and what really makes it is the awesome percussion break that comes out of nowhere. I have a live version that I think was done on the Lifeline tour that has a great percussion jam at the end.

9. Fight for Your Mind

This song has to have one of the best funkiest bass and drum grooves of any I know. I've always loved Ben's guitar groove, so slinky and subtle, but so cool I wish it got accentuated even more. Such a song of personal empowerment filled with great lyrics and messages in it but I always liked the way Ben sings "If you're going to pull some weight...pull your own." The studio version is good, but once again it's overly restrained and lacks the energy of the live version. One of my favorite live performances is the Gold to Me (segue into) Fight for Your Mind on the Pleasure and Pain DVD. I even like the horns they added in that performance and of course between Juan's bass jam and Ben scratching the slide guitar like a record, a jam just doesn't get much cooler than that.

10. Give a Man a Home

Another long time grower for me. It has some very cool slide guitar effects and the chorus is great. Still, something about the guitar playing and the drums and the vocals just sounds very disjointed to me, like someone's off from the others. Over time that became part of the charm of it. It sounds complex musically yet when you read the lyrics they're quite simple and very beautiful. This song still continues to grow on me even today in great ways.

11. By My Side

Definitely a favorite. Love the old simple soul song approach to it. However (I'm sounding like a broken record) the live acoustic version I have is so much more moving and soulful.

12. Power of the Gospel

This studio version is nearly unlistenable to me. Sorry, but when Ben tries to pour on the string section in his songs I usually tune out. Just keep it simple and stick to the acoustic, it's far better and more effective. I never even paid much attention to this song until the all acoustic version on Live from Mars. It's SO MUCH better to me. I have a natural adversion to songs with overt religious references, but this is admittedly a powerful song.

13. God Fearing Man

Still a song I just can't get into. Just too dissonant sounding all the way through. The melody isn't very strong and while Ben really pushes experimenting with slide guitar techinques and effects through much of the nearly 12 minutes of this song, its just not that interesting to me. I've maybe been able to listen to it all the way through twice ever before having to skip it. It's an ambitious song but I think it could have stayed a B-side.

14. One Road to Freedom

It took a while before I paid much attention to this song, but then it suddenly clicked and I think its one of his most underapprecited and unnoticed songs in his catalogue. I love the light jazzy feel of the drums and Ben's falsetto is perfect and powerful in its effect. Great way to close out the album.

Overall, I'd say its Ben's first real masterpiece, ambitious and sprawling. It's also our first real introduction to the IC's and giving it much more of a band feel to it than the first album. Juan is the BOMB on this album. However, Mmy biggest problem is that I think Ben hadn't quite figured out yet how to capture the live energy of his songs in the studio. Many of these songs have been done far better in various live settings since. Because of that, its not often anymore that I listen to many of these songs in their original version. It's not perfect, but its an incredibly ambitious album with a level of eclecticism all but unheard of on a single album. Like I said earlier, I think Ben was way ahead of his time and pioneered the blue print for how music is listened to in the 21st century. Today, when we can cherry pick single songs from various albums and genres from iTunes and create our own playlists and have a song by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley can follow each other at anytime. Ben does it here as a singular incredibly multitalented artist. Like a favorite old pair of jeans, this album just keeps getting better with age. If I had to be stuck on a deserted island with only one of Ben's albums, no doubt this would be it. It's not necessarily my favorite. Yet, even now there are still songs that are growing on me and revealing new things to me I've never noticed before despite the countless times I've listened to it, and THAT is sure sign of a classic.

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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  Nadine on Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:12 pm

Wow! If this was Facebook, I'd have clicked on 'Like', what an awesome thorough review! I'll try to find some time to listen to it layer on this weekend and post my own Smile
Thank you for this!
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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  MOJO the Moderator on Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:07 pm

MC, you are killin' it!!!!
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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  Peter on Sat Apr 09, 2011 2:36 am

I don't know how much I can add because MCTolen really nailed this one. But I'll have a go.

1. Oppression
This was the first of Ben's album to really grab my attention, and it was really this opening track that grabbed me right from the very start that caused me to take this album seriously and properly listen to it the whole way through. I love the percussion! Even the guitar in this track is a percussion instrument as its strummed openly and then muted rhythmically, very powerful. The sound is very full on this track, its absorbing and punch, actually one of the few songs of Ben's that I might like better on the album than live.

2. Ground On Down
Again, this being one of the earlier songs I listened to from Ben, I was very confused after hearing this. I was thinking wait how old is this guy? How long ago was this album recorded? It sounds so fresh and original, very cutting edge. But at the same time it sounds like a song that's been around forever. If you told me this was an old blues song that Ben re-recorded in the late 70's I might have believed it. I couldn't wrap my head around it...

3. Another Lonely Day
And then then song comes on! What a transition. By this point a new listener to Ben Harper might start to get the idea that you never really know what your going to get next. As MC said, this is in the same vein as Walk Away and even waiting on an angel. Over the years Ben has recorded quite a few songs of this sentiment, probably almost an albums worth on their own. But I really like the way they are always found in odd places, in the middle of eclectic albums, it really speaks true to the way these albums always seem to be collections of spur of the moment feelings, moods, attitudes. Just moments, compiled.

4. Please Me Like You Want To
This one did take a little while to grow on me. But after hearing the version with Jack Johnson I really started to dig it. I love the guitar, its a pretty distinctly BH melody. His whisper vocals and the ting on the high-hat cymbals are soothing and tranquil. I really love this song! I realize now as i'm listening back through the album just how much I've missed this song. Brings back memories of sitting on the empty buss on the way home from a few years back. Used to play this album a lot.

5. Gold To Me
This was actually the song that I would skip most often. I never really got it. I couldn't understand why this song was so popular, it seemed to feature on a lot of peoples best of's and playlists and crowds would always go wild for it on the bootlegs I listened to. These days I don't skip, It's a nice song but I still don't really get what draws so many people to it. I really like the weissenborn soloing I guess Razz

6. Burn One Down
Everyone loves this one too, and this time I can understand it perfectly. I have always liked the Live From Mars version so much better though. Especially how he would say 'is "Jah" greatest worth' instead of 'your', no idea why, such a small insignificant part but it made all the difference for me haha. Gotta love Leon's enthusiasm too!

"My choice is what I choose to do, and if I'm causing no harm it shouldn't bother you, your choice is who you choose to be and if its causing no harm then your alright with me."

7. Excuse Me Mr.
This is actually, probably now that I think of it, one of my very favourite songs. It's really unusual in the way that the lyrics are a dialogue between Ben and "Mr." something that at first I thought was odd and a little.. idno... corny almost. But hearing the song live especially, the pain in his voice, the bass line thats just so cool, badass even. It's just in your face and he's just laying the blame and.. I don't know! I don't know why I love this song. It's everything about it. It's the attitude, it's how unusual it is. It's deep, the drums are slow almost like a march. It's got an energy behind it like this is what I have to say and you're going to hear it. I love the chanting/harmony. Everything! This is a stand out track for me, to me it's probably the one I think of when I think of this album.

8. People Lead
Unlike MC this one grabbed me right away. It gets under my skin. Again its probably the bass that drives this one home. Juan really does shine on this album. Ben really spits these lyrics out, still restrained but there's a bit of venom behind his words which is really appealing.

"You can put a man through school but you can not make him think."

It's a call to the ignorant who let their lives be ruled by others to wake up, stand up, be aware, take your lead. It's powerful and emotive, its just great!

9. Fight For Your Mind
Back before iTunes etc where you could just seek out a song and press play I would grab this CD, stick it in the player and skip to this track sometimes just to hear it specifically. Very funky, and sometimes you just need that funk void in your soul to be filled. This song is like 98% Juan Nelson! He owns this one.

10. Give A Man A Home
Really love this song, this one hit me hard from day one. It shows a bit of a different side of Ben that hadn't been seen before. A really deeply caring emotional side, different to say Walk Away. It's empathetic, its deep, its raw and very powerful. I love the multi-layered voice tracks. This song gives me goosebumps sometimes. I never noticed the disjointedness that MC mentioned, it does have a lot of layers but this always assisted the tone, at least in my mind. It's sort of smothering almost, like a blanket of sound. Its soothing yet haunting. I really love this song, but I have to stop saying that about all of them. I really love this ALBUM! I think that's the problem.

11. By My Side
Simple, beautiful. I like the church organs, wish they were included in more songs, they're sorta charming and warm. I do prefer his vocals on the live takes, when he reaches for the high notes. Wish he would strive for those high notes on his album takes more often, he never seems to give it his all, it's always just slightly too restrained. Always been a bugbear with me.

12. Power of the Gospel
This might be the most special song on the album for me. Unfortunately though, I have to agree with MC that the studio track is just... its no good Sad the strings are perfectly fine, the whole thing sounds lovely. But at the very heart of this song its missing the raw power and emotion of the live track. It's a great track, but its just not what it could/should have been. The moments of silence between the verses annoy me. The vocals are drowned out by the strings. The solo acoustic rendition of this song is perhaps the most powerful of his long list of solo acoustic gems.

I actually performed this song on guitar in front of my musical class. It was a special moment for me. I was really nervous, didn't really want to get up there. Here I was getting up with this weird song called 'Power of the Gospel' when everyone else was doing pop and rock songs. But the guitar in this song has always affected me deeply. It's so beautiful and can transport me instantly to somewhere else. So I played it anyways because I enjoyed it. Made a bunch of mistakes but people seemed to like it. That was enough for me Smile

I'm not one for religious songs myself. I'm not religious at all but can defiantly appreciate Ben's spiritual side. But with Ben's stuff I never seem to mind. His album with the blind boys is one of my favourites strangely enough.

13. God Fearing Man
Never realized how long this song is! Wow, time seems to just float on by when I listen to this. This song in particular seems to wash over me. I like it, it doesn't exactly stand out to me as an amazing track but I defiantly don't skip. It's a good thing its at the end of the album though Razz

14. One Road To Freedom
The perfect track to complete this incredible album. I love its placement in the Pleasure & Pain Documentary. I love the light drumming and agree with MC that it has a jazzy feel to it, never thought of it that way. A great song to just chill out and relax to. This song should sandwich a playlist, it should close out a great movie, it should be played on the way home from a great holiday, it should be played as the sun sets, or as the sun rises. It should be enjoyed with someone else's hand in your own, with a nice glass of wine, or quietly on a buss, or on a walk home in the rain. Everyone can find something in this song. The lyrics really don't mean anything in particular. Its a sentimental song about the journey of life, every ones journey for freedom, for happiness. In this song he says there's just one road to freedom, and I think what he means is that for each of us, we have our own path, for each of us there is only one. Not that there's one for all of us to share. And I can agree with this wholeheartedly.

This album really is a classic man, there's none like it. I'm so glad I did this today, it has really renewed my appreciation of this amazing album. I'm defiantly going to start listening to this one a lot more from now on. Might have to re-watch the Pleasure & Pain DVD now that I think of it. This album has a lot of special moments in it and it will always have a special place with me, it was the soundtrack to a lot of very memorable moments in my life so far and hopefully more to come. I'm also really looking forward to doing Burn to Shine, that album is very similar for me in terms of being special Smile soon...
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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  giulio_pc on Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:17 am

i'd like to revisit fight for your mind too, but as an italian(my english is not that good), I couldn't express in words the feelings this album can give to me.. but i want to say something that happened to me..
i started listen to Ben when i was only nine years old.. my brother bought the will to live and when he put the cd in the stereo and clicked play i remember faded blowed me away..
i didn't understand english at that time but i kept listening to ben everyday, only because of the sounds so specials and strange(i didn't know what a weissenborn was at that time)
but the sounds of the first two albums didn't catch me.. i think beacause i was too young..
some years after, i started to listen FFYM, but i didn't understand all the lyrics, especially in burn one down, i didn't know what was the meaning of "burning one down"(;-))!
but when ben sing "if you don't like my fire then don't come around"or "your choice is what you choose to be and if you're causin no harm ecc" i thought it was something filosophic, you know, like "if you don't like my soul, you don't have to come around, but we can live in peace together because everyone does his choices..". this meaning is very important for me.. even for my spiritual point of view.. so everytime i listen to this song it has two different meanings..
maybe for you my friends is the same?!

then also god fearing man is very important for me.. when i saw this song live in an old video i said.. no..i have to play that guitar, so i started play slide with the asher!
Very Happy

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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  MCTolen on Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:24 pm

Yo, Peter and Giulio...that was awesome!! Guilio, I thought that was great what you said about the meaning of Burn One Down to you. I think that's a great way to think of the song. It's true, just because its a song in reference to weed, there is greater message about tolerance and peaceful acceptance of things others do that we may choose not to do. I like the idea of "my fire" being a persons soul (as to a spliff). I think should my kids hear this song I'll tell them that's what its about! Great stuff guys, everyone keep it going!!

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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  Peter on Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:31 am

Come on guys, i'm sure there's someone else who would like to have a go?
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Fight For Your Mind-Slight return

Post  ronniechristian1999 on Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:46 pm

For the most part I agree with the reviews soo far with exception of God Fearing Man. That track at first it did wash over me but never skipped it. It was upon the encouragement of another fan to give it another go. I remember like yesterday. I had just dropped off a friend after a Prince concert and just hopped on I95. I put the song on and played it LOUD!. I played it over and over till I got home. Freaking Epic! It hits me like the Doors "The End".

Peace and Happy Easter

RC

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Re: Fight For Your Mind (Revisited)

Post  aski on Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:59 am

agree with a lot of what's been said, i also prefer the live versions over any studio version (that goes to any album).

which again leads me to God Fearing Man, what an incredible song live!! even today i can't understand why it wasn't included on Live From Mars. Just listen to for example the Louisville 7 May 2001 show, turn it way up. i get goose bumps just talking about it!
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