On November 1st, Virgin/UMe will celebrate the 25th anniversary Ben Harper’s groundbreaking debut album Welcome To The Cruel World on standard-weight black double vinyl. The uDiscoverMusic.com online store will also make available a 180-gram grey/green/black swirl double vinyl. All 25th anniversary vinyl versions will play at 45rpm. This marks the first time Welcome To The Cruel World has been issued on two LPs.
“Claremont, California is a small town hidden in Southern California. Some have it mapped as the last town on the eastern shoulder Los Angeles County, most know it as the first town in the Inland Empire,” Harper shares about the 25th anniversary the project.
“It is in this town that in 1958 my grandparents opened up a small musical instrument shop called the Folk Music Center. From the outside it may be a music store, but from the inside it is where music, culture and political activism converge.
“The Folk Music Center is still open today, 62 years later. Taj Mahal, David Lindley, Leonard Cohen, Chris Darrow, Louis Meyers and Ry Cooder is the beginning a long list musicians who I met while growing up in the shop, but none more important than my co-producer JP Plunier.
“JP was a local on the Claremont music scene with a global perspective that was critical in introducing the music to an international audience. I was 23 years old and had recently come f the road from playing lap steel guitar in Taj Mahal’s band. Touring with Taj helped draw significant attention to my own music. There were a couple managers around at that time showing interest, but JP was the only person who shared with me a near identical creative vision, which was a love folk, blues, rock, soul, reggae and hip-hop, as well as a fearlessness to blend them all in one body work.
“Today this may seem like standard practice, but in 1992 it did not exist. If you wanted to get through the door a major record label, you had to pick a lane and stick to it. Having a song like “Waiting On An Angel” and “Like A King” on the same album was not going to fly, and we were reminded this daily as we were turned down by every major label in Hollywood. All except Virgin Records.
“With one record’s worth material to my name, with JP able to get us through the front door at Virgin Records, and with Jeff Ayerf and Jordan Harris (co-chairmen Virgin at the time) willing to take a risk on an eclectic songwriting lap steel guitar player, Welcome To The Cruel World was born.”
Harper has since released over 20 studio and live albums collectively to date, including collaborations with longtime heroes and inspirations like Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples and The Blind Boys Alabama. Harper also continues to tour as both a solo artist and with his longtime band, The Innocent Criminals, in front packed audiences far and wide.