On 1 November, Virgin/UMe will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ben Harper’s groundbreaking debut album Welcome To The Cruel World on standard-weight black double vinyl, while there will also be a 180g grey/green/black swirl double vinyl edition available. 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.
Ben Harper recalls the story behind Welcome To The Cruel World: “Claremont, California is a small town hidden in Southern California. Some have it mapped as the last town on the eastern shoulder of Los Angeles County, most know it as the first town in the Inland Empire.
“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 of a long list of 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 off 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 of 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 of folk, blues, rock, soul, reggae and hip-hop, as well as a fearlessness to blend them all in one body of work.
“Today this may seem like standard practice, but in 1992 it did not exist. If you wanted to get through the door of 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 of this daily as we were turned down by every major label in Hollywood. All except Virgin Records.
With one record’s worth of material to my name, with JP able to get us through the front door at Virgin Records, and with Jeff Ayeroff and Jordan Harris (co-chairmen of 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 of Alabama. Harper also continues to tour as both a solo artist and with his longtime band, The Innocent Criminals, in front of packed audiences far and wide.
Welcome To The Cruel World will be released on 1 November and can be bought here.