Ben Harper's CD Box Collection features his first three albums – Welcome to the Cruel World, Fight for Your Mind, and The Will to Live – in a cloth-bound box that also includes a 32-page booklet with lyrics and liner notes. The collection provides a welcome overview of Harper's growth toward becoming an uncompromisingly political yet very musical artist. Ben Harper, A little bit Jimi and a little bit Marley and a whole lot of soul. I give it to you straight, I haven't purchased this set but I have purchased each album individually when they were released. This set is great for those new to Ben especially after the Burn to Shine release brought him to the masses. You can get your fill for a lower price with this set. Ben mixes blues with funk, rock, hip-hop, R&B, and classical with the greatest of ease. He is truely a genius, because never before has a man brought so many genres of music together into what can only be described as a symphony. Speaking of symphonies just listen to Roses from My Friends and you can feel the energy, passion and emotion which is truely immense. He is one of the few true artists of our time, so if you don't have this pick it up. Ballads to Blues Jams - Ben does it all.
This musical hookup between these two experienced roots artists who have more in common than it seems at first glance, is a natural evolution for both. Ben Harper seemed like an old soul, even when he began his career, dipping into classic R&B, gospel, and blues but spinning them through his dark, folk-funk persona. His work with the Blind Boys of Alabama showed him to be welcomed by veteran artists who clearly felt he was a kindred spirit. Harpist/guitarist Charlie Musselwhite's extensive résumé typically moved him past the often limiting structure of the Chicago blues where he first made his presence felt, to Tex-Mex, Cuban, Americana, swamp rock, country, and even jazz.
Ben Harper's history with the Blind Boys of Alabama has been an evolving one that has moved from being a guest on their landmark Higher Ground offering and touring with them in Europe, to the Blind Boys joining Ben and the Innocent Criminals on-stage at the front and back of the show. This album began as a series of rehearsals for collaboration on a Blind Boys of Alabama record. Recorded in two sessions, the vibe in the room was loose and creative enough that the two acts ended up with an album of collaborative material for joint release. And this is a collaboration in the truest sense of the word. It's not just Ben playing gospel, or the Blind Boys of Alabama singing on a Ben Harper record…..
It took Ben Harper nine years to reconvene the Innocent Criminals for 2016's Call It What It Is, but that's not necessarily an abnormally long time for this crew: eight years separated its 2007 predecessor Lifeline from their 2009 debut, Burn to Shine. Harper formed the Innocent Criminals partially with the intention that they'd be his Band of Gypsies, a support system for him to indulge in his Jimi Hendrix daydreams, but they wound up being an even better outlet for his soulful side. Despite "Pink Balloon" and the ham-fisted opener "When Sex Was Dirty" – bluesy bluster that pulls this closer to Lenny Kravitz than Hendrix – Call It What It Is is largely devoted to this blissed-out, mellow vibe.