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 1999 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. Part hippie blues and part Impressions, with just a dose of sunsplash reggae, this is an album for chilling at sunset. Harper may attempt grand statements -- when he's wishing for a time when sex was dirty, it's not a carnal yearning; he associates it with a time when the air was also clean -- but what matters on Call It What It Is isn't what he's saying, but how he's saying it. And that's where the Innocent Criminals come into play. The group gives Harper's tunes warmth and elasticity, opening them up with ease and letting them breathe. When he's backed by the Innocent Criminals, Harper never seems to be trying too hard, and that's why Call It What It Is is a cut above many of his records. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Entertainment Weekly - "Recorded in separate sessions spanning the course of a year, the 11-song set is his most diverse collection in years....Harper also embraces his mature worldview on the album, the most overt political statement of his career."