Give Till It's Gone - What's the Verdict?!

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Give Till It's Gone - What's the Verdict?!

Post  MCTolen on Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:55 pm

Now that we’ve all had ample time to listen to Give Till It’s Gone....what’s the verdict?? I’m really surprised by the lack of discussion since the new album came out. That’s either good or bad. Either way we should definitely be talking about it. My verdict so far is that it is a “very good” album, but perhaps not a “Great” album. If I had to rate it, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. Funny thing is, there’s not a single song I dislike on the album. There are just fewer “homeruns” and more “solid base hits.”
First, let me qualify that the last album “White Lies for Dark Times” has grown to become one of my favorite Ben Harper albums. Any “Ben Harper Mix” I make will likely always include songs like Number with No Name, Shimmer and Shine, Fly One Time, Keep it Together, Boots Like These and Faster, Slower, Disappear (aka Karma to Burn) from Live in Montreal. I see less songs on this album making the cut over time.
The first two songs “Don’t Give Up on Me Now” and “I Will Not Be Broken” are both very good songs. The melodies and lyrics keep resonating in my mind. They are powerful songs and carry deep messages that can be both personal and universal. Still, I can’t say they will rank among my favorites. Next, “Rock and Roll is Free” gives the album the shot of adrenaline you’re itching for after two heavier songs. Sure, this is an old song to many of us fans, but I still love it. It’s a fun song to rock out to with the windows down on a hot summer day. I also think it’s a clever contemporary twist on the old Neil Young song “Rockin’ in the Free World” proving that even Ben’s lighter efforts are smarter than most of the music out there. “Feel Love” is a song that initially after hearing the iTunes preview I thought I would HATE. Surprisingly, hearing the full song in the context of the album, I actually like it more than I thought I would. It’s nicely done, maybe a bit sappy but well written. I actually don’t skip it for the time being. I got the acoustic version on vinyl that I can’t wait to hear (just need to get a record player now!) For anyone who has listened to it, what do you think? “Clearly Severely” amps it back up. Again, it’s a good song, rocks pretty hard and sounds very Foo Fighterish. I like the line “Like a pair of shoes hanging from a wire, I have no idea how we got here.” Yet it also has a sound quality to it that is like nails on a chalk board to the point that sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen to it. “Spilling Faith” is a very cool song. However, I’m not sure it quite lives up to the hype I’d heard about it for awhile. Great groove and the jam is cool but I was hoping for more interplay and standout guitar solos. Instead it just maintains a more sustained groove. Don’t get me wrong, I like it a lot and its bursting at the seems in coolness, but just doesn’t quite blow it out like I’d hoped. “Pray that our Love Sees the Dawn” is a beautifully heartfelt song and clearly near and dear to Ben. The skittering drum and bass intro reminds me of Radiohead a bit. Ben’s never done a ballad like this one and it’s a beautiful accomplishment. The final three songs are straight up Relentless 7 rockers. “Waiting on a Sign” is a great funk rocker in the same vain as “Lay There and Hate Me.” I’m still debating which I like better. “Dirty Little Lover” may surprisingly be my favorite song on the album. It just has such a great dirty groove and melody to it and I love the tempo changes and subtle background vocals. Finally, “Do it for You, Do it for Us” closes it out with possibly the hardest rockin’ song Ben has done with Relentless 7. Ben really unleashes his anger and frustration and blows it out! I like how it starts out with a disco like bass groove before erupting into a full blown head banger. It’s kind of a weird way to end an album that starts out so calm and reflective, but I love cranking it up.
Ben has said in interviews that he feels this album measures up to his personal best works such as Fight for Your Mind and Diamonds on the Inside. Considering the themes of this album in light of Ben’s split from Laura Dern, this is no doubt a very personal album to him. Again, I think it’s a very good album, but I have a hard time putting it up amongst his best work. I will say that lyrically I think its his best work over the last few albums. This album seems (intentionally or not) to act as a bridge between his earlier work and his work with Relentless 7. I prefer the later half of the album from Spilling Faith on, probably because it sounds the most like R7, which I’ve really been diggin. Others I’m sure will prefer the first half of the album depending on which aspect of Ben’s music they prefer.
My two biggest complaints of this album are that its too short and the sound quality and production sounds poor at times. Ever since Ben released Both Sides of the Gun as a double album it seems like Ben has been gun shy (no pun intended) to release longer albums and instead has kept them very tight and short. Personally I loved Both Sides of the Gun and thought it was a brilliant idea. Sometimes a “beautiful mess” to be repeatedly sifted through can be better and have greater returns than a really tight album that leaves little more to be discovered. One man’s B-side is another man’s A-side. I think this album feels especially short since among a total of 11 songs, one song is simply an extended jam and two other songs “Rock and Roll is Free” and “I Will Not be Broken” we already had or heard for quite a while. I think a weissenborn solo instrumental (Mutt) and the song “Blood Side Out” would have rounded out the album nicely. I’d still love to hear an R7 take on a reggae song. All I can say is this album left me hungry for more and I missed that “devil may care” attitude on other albums regardless of whether it was a safe choice or a perfect fit. My other complaint is the sound quality and production. Is it just me or does this album sound rather rough and muddy in some spots and at many times the bass is so overpowering it drowns out everything else. On songs like “I Will Not Be Broken” when you’re waiting for that huge blast of guitar to hit, it sounds less dynamic and dulled. The same dynamic quality comes off a bit muddled at the tempo change on “Do it for you, Do it for us.” The overall mix just sounds kind of rough, but not in a way that serves the songs best.
I like the album a lot, it’s very solid and it will get plenty of listens but it seems to fall just short of reaching the same heights reached on previous albums. Personally I don’t expect it to have quite the staying power in regular rotation as the last album or other albums. However, I could be wrong since I do like it much better after several listens than I thought I would after hearing the previews on iTunes. I will also attest that many of these songs will provide great inspiration, comfort and solace to anyone experiencing difficult times in life or in relationships. That is something Harper never fails to deliver. Finally, I will say that I'm now satisfied and have gotten my fill of the R7 sound. I don't mean that disrespectfully in any way. It's been great. I'm just ready for a full blown Innocent Criminals album again!!

MCTolen

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Re: Give Till It's Gone - What's the Verdict?!

Post  aski on Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:43 am

amen to that last sentence! Smile
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Re: Give Till It's Gone - What's the Verdict?!

Post  Peter on Sat Jun 11, 2011 5:49 am

Been meaning to reply to this. Firstly, feel love acoustic is really nice. Maybe better than the album version, it has piano as well as the guitar and a little of the violin in there. Its raw and a lot more powerful stripped down. Overall I really liked this album a lot more then I was expecting too. Not even sure why really. I think its a great eclectic mix whilst still maintaining the same sort of sound throughout. I thought 'pray that our love sees the dawn' was probably the standout next to 'i will not be broken', very honest writing that was really refreshing. I think a lot of the melody in the album is classic ben, a lot of the riffs and the structuring reminds me of the older material which I liked, and the whole thing felt very punchy! I also loved 'clearly severely', a very new sound for ben but you could really feel that one rushing though you.

Overall really impressed. I think I might like it more than the last album even. Not my favorite though obviously and I'd sure like another IC record too Razz
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