The Michigan Daily discovered in November 2004 that several articles written by arts editor Alex Wolsky did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. The article below appears to contain plagiarism, and the Daily no longer stands by its content. For details, see the Daily’s editorial.
He comes from a musical family, which explains why his sound is a unique mixture of old and new. Yet, after a four-year lapse from studio recording, Ben Harper returns with his most eclectic release to date with Diamonds on the Inside. A heavy conglomeration of funk, soul, and reggae fused together with Harper’s own rock edge creates a stylish and introspective performance spanning 14 tracks and decades of influence.
On the album’s best tracks, he seems like rock’s social conscience and the heir apparent to the fusion of reggae, funk and rock championed by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. The gospel-laden “When She Believes” and the reggae-powered “With My Own Two Hands” show Harper as a conscious reflector on the influences that have shaped his music over the years. In fact, the entire album portrays itself as homage to the artists that Harper built his unique sound around.
However, the CD strays too far from the unique sound that has defined Harper. The usually fragile and quaint vocal performance is overamplified on Diamonds and the musicianship lacks any ingenuity that Harper brought to the table on his last records. It just seems that he has set the bar too high and as a result my attention span depletes along with the albums credibility.
Whether he was trying too hard to please a commercial audience on one side, or music’s elite on the other, the album is a grandiose example of how an artist’s expectation can simultaneously sink his own ship. He carries our expectations as a burden and lets it drag him around throughout Diamonds on the Inside. When we take a closer inspection, we find beneath the layer of influence and originality, an artist who has never been commercially accepted attempting to touch all bases. Altogether, there seems to be something missing this time around, which makes this album fall short of what Harper is capable of creating.
Diamonds on the Inside
Rating: 3 Stars