In 1999 American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Ben Harper released his fourth studio album, Born To Shine, with his band, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.
Born To Shine features an array of enticing songs that combine elements of blues, rock, soul, and folk into one addictive mixture. As was common amongst Ben Harper albums, different versions were released in different regions offering fans a wide array of bonus content to track down.
“Alone” opens the album up with a dramatic, militaristic beat, and a guitar part that sends chills down the spine before the lyrics roll in. Subdued yet powerful, there’s something about this song that hits deep and lingers, much like the feeling of loneliness itself.
“Suzie Blue” was one of the songs on the album, along with “Steal My Kisses,” to become popular on college radio, and it’s easy to see why.
Everything about this track is designed to please, from the muffled opening that evokes a sense of times past, to the beautifully bluesy tune that touches the soul, this song is a treat. The lyrics are poetic and touching, with a meaningful message to boot. This song seeks to remind its listeners that while love can sometimes leave them blue, there’s always more to the future, and staying in sorrow can only end badly:
“But your far away from the love you used to hold,
Don’t sit and watch your self grow old
The day is new, Suzie Blue,
The day is new, Suzie Blue.”
The title track, “Burn To Shine” is a shot of good ol’ rock n’ roll to mark the album’s midway point. Catchy and fun, this song is hard not to dance along to.
You can hear the enjoyment in Harper’s voice as he sings fondly of a time “we made love until we cried and cried ourselves to laughter,” and the desire to rekindle an old flame. When in need of a pick-me-up, this song is definitely a go-to.
“In The Lord’s Arms” ends the album on a sorrowful, heartfelt note. This acoustic track is beautifully crafted and heart wrenching, evoking images of loss, nostalgia, and reflection. The serene melody and emotional vocals come together to create something simple, yet beautiful.
While Ben Harper would go on to record many more albums after Burn To Shine, there’s something special about the album that gives it so much replay value.
For some it’s the variety it offers, while others appreciate the umbrella sense of raw emotion Harper is somehow able to inject into all the songs. Whatever the intrigue may be, this is one album everyone needs to hear at least once.