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Ben Harper - Live From Mars Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 March 2001

Ben Harper
Live From Mars
format: CD
label: EMD/Virgin Records
release year: 2001
performance: 7
sound 5
reviewed by: Brian Kahn

This two-disc live set captures a wide range of Harper’s musical styles. The first disc highlights fast paced, full band tracks, and disc two features solo acoustic pieces. This album, like the recently reviewed Burn to Shine album, aptly demonstrates Harper’s prowess throughout an eclectic range of music.

Harper pays homage to several of his influences in this two-disc set through covers of Cat Stevens, Led Zeppelin, The Verve, Marvin Gaye and Jeff Buckley. The wide variety of diverse bands covered in this album just hints at the band’s broad range of style and technical abilities.

Fans of Harper who look at the track list and see that they already own the majority of the songs on the album should note that the live versions on this album can and does vary quite significantly from the prior studio version. As a music fan, I greatly appreciate when an artist experiments and varies songs in live performances. Harper comes through strong in this regard. The track Steal My Kisses, off of the Burn to Shine album, differs greatly from the studio version, as do several other tracks. This is definitely a case where fans will want to have both versions.

While I found the performance to be varied and heartfelt, the album was somewhat diminished in the recording process. I felt somewhat detached from the concert arena, almost as if I were listening to it through a window from the outside rather than being in the crowd. In some areas, I found the sound to be slightly muffled, adding to this sensation. With a little bit of tolerance, the album provides a pleasurable listening experience, crossing several genres of music that are sure to appeal to a wide audience.

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