Dual-Wielding Double Album
The occasional paradox of a double album is audible in Ben Harper’s Both Sides of the Gun. Disc one feels organic, with Harper sounding personal and passionate. “Waiting For You” and “Morning Yearning” reflect a well-composed orchestration of vocals, strings, piano, and drums. Harper’s guitar sneaks in as percussion shifts from brushes on snare to tambourine. The simplicity of “Never Leave Lonely Alone” reminds one of Vince Guaraldi’s jazz stylings. This disciplined approach to minimalism is the best thing about the first half of Both Sides of the Gun.Disc two, albeit entertaining, comes off as contrived and somewhat arbitrary. It sounds like a vain attempt to compose one ‘Harper-esque’ jam for many musical genres. The sitar-laced “Better Way” digs deep for rhythms that allow for playful guitar riffs and decorative percussion, yet Harper’s screaming in the second verse nearly ruins everything. The title track is a soulful groove with its muddy organs and funky bass key changes. The protest song “Black Rain” encourages revolt amid 1970s-era strings and wah-wah guitar. “Get It Like You Like It” and “Serve Your Soul” fulfill the country-fried rock category. “Gather ‘Round the Stone” is the folk song. “The Way You Found Me,” with its acoustic bass and lounge lizard piano, is clearly the jazz track.
On its own, disc one would be a solid album. While disc two fails to do the album justice, perhaps it wins one over after repeated listening. Disc one receives a B and disc two a D, averaging Both Sides of the Gun out to a C — on target, but nowhere near the bulls-eye.