Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - Call It What It Is [LP] (180 Gram, download)

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Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals have reunited for Call It What It Is, their first record together in nine years. Call It What It Is is an incisive, bold, poetic statement that could only come from these long-time musical partners, one of popular music’s most essential, cohesive and dynamic ensembles. The standout title track showcases Harper’s unmatched ability to blend the personal and political. Invoking the names of Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, and Michael Brown over an agitated blues riff, Harper cuts to the quick: “There’s good cops / bad cops / white cops / black cops / call it what it is / Murder.” The genre-spanning collection contains many highlights including the sun-kissed groove of Shine and the album’s swaggering lead track When Sex Was Dirty. It had been seven years since Ben Harper last played a show with the Innocent Criminals, so when the time came to reunite for a live tour in 2015, the band—percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboardist Jason Yates, and guitarist Michael Ward—quickly discovered that Harper had more in mind than simply revisiting the group’s prodigious song catalogue. In fact, Harper had been quietly amassing material for a new record and the first recording sessions were scheduled to begin even before the rehearsals for their triumphant four-night sold-out reunion run at the Fillmore in San Francisco last March.