Each new album of Ben Harper signifies a musical growth. But where
most other musicians try to further expand the musical style
they have adopted, Ben's approach is to broaden his musical
horizon. His fourth album with Virgin records, Burn to Shine
is no exception to this. The record incorporates a stunning array of
musical styles, including blues, folk, jazz, rock, and gospel.
Ben Harper's roots are the delta blues, with strong influences of
Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Taj Mahal, and Bob Dylan. At first,
Burn to Shine appears to be a radical change from Ben's
blues/folk approach of Welcome to the Cruel World, and
Fight for your Mind. With its more electrified sound Burn
to Shine is a continuation of the musical direction that Ben has
taken since the preceding album, The Will to Live. Still, each song
is rooted in the blues but it is not the traditional Mississippi delta style; instead, you will recognize the blues in the
feelings, emotions, and spirit of Ben's songs.
Ben's signature instruments, the 70-100 year old Weissenborn
guitars don't get a lot of play on this album. In the past, Ben
amplified the acoustic Weissenborns to obtain feedback, comparable to
that of an electric guitar. However, the sound of these antique
instruments can only be pushed to a certain degree. To overcome this
problem, a lot of the guitar play on Burn to Shine was done
with a custom built guitar, the Asher Ben Harper lap slide
guitar, designed in collaboration with luthier Bill Asher. The
guitar is a semi-solid, semi-hollow hybrid between an acoustic and an
electric guitar. It combines the resonance and sustain of both
Burn to Shine is much more a concerted effort of Ben Harper
and his band, The Innocent Criminals than his previous
albums. In fact, this is Ben's first album that lists the band on the
outside cover. Together with bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Dean
Butterworth and percussionist David Leach, Ben Harper forms a
Like the other Ben Harper records, this album contains emotional,
spiritual, intense songs. It is definitely not an album to play
in the background and ignore. Ben's mission is to move his
audience. He pushes your senses, and then pulls... and sometimes let you
go in a free fall. Even more than his preceding albums, Burn to
Shine is an musical rollercoaster with emotional songs such as Two
Hands of a Prayer directly followed by the raw, powerful sound of Please
Bleed. It is not a "typical" Ben Harper album, but none of them are. I
would recommend to first listen to Ben Harper's older albums to hear
where he is coming from, and where he wants to take you.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Burn to Shine
Virgin Records. Produced by J.P. Plunier.
A somber, longing, emotionally laden song.
Alone bridges between Ben Harper's more folk influenced songs
of his previous albums, and the more electrified work of this album.
- The Woman in you
A beautifully soulful song. The guitar work is reminiscent of one of Ben
Harper's greatest influences, Jimi Hendrix. Ben Harper carries the
song with a high pitched falsetto, and emotional cries.
This song has an angry grunge rock sound, this time carried by Ben Harper's
Rickenbacker lap steel guitar.
- Two Hands of a Prayer
An emotional ballad, breaking the powerful songs that precede and follow
- Please Bleed
Like Less, this song features a raw grunge sound with plenty
of electric guitar work. But this time, Ben's vocals are more soulful.
- Suzie Blue
Ben Harper again changes gears, with Suzie Blue. This song
sounds as if it was recorded in New Orleans in the 1920s. It is a
wobbling jazz shuffle that features the backup of the Real Time Jazz
- Steal my Kisses
This song received plenty of airtime, although it must have surprised
many unknowing buyers expecting a totally different sounding album.
Steal my Kisses is a funky, soulful rock song with an
interesting mix of human beatboxing.
- Burn to Shine
Kicking it up a notch again, the energetic title track rocks like the
older work by Clapton et al.
- Show me a little shame
Show me a little Shame has the most obvious connections with
the blues, with some gospel influences. Tyrone Downie of The Wailers
plays keyboard on the song (and on The woman in you).
Beautiful slide guitar accompanies Ben Harper's powerful voice on this song.
- Beloved One
A hymnal, emotional ballad. The song is musically not very complex, but has strong vocals.
- In the Lord's Arms
A spiritual folk song concluding the album.