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John Popper
by Jon Young
Launch, National
Aug 31st, 1999

Blues Traveler with his fluid harmonica blowing. While Big John unleashes a little harp on Zygote, notably in the jumpy, seven-minute opener "Miserable Bastard," he's pursuing a different agenda here. Playing spirited if unremarkable guitar and singing a lot in his genial, regular-dude way, Popper reflects on love and the difficult search for enlightenment, suggesting a thoughtful artiste more than a groovemeister.

From the tender "Once You Wake Up" to the breathless "Evil In My Chair" to the funky boogie of "Tip The Domino," Popper makes the ultimate kind of soul music, testifying about matters of the heart with the fervor of a revival-meeting preacher. The constructive intentions usually make up for his vocal limitations; even misfires such as the pretentious, dreamy "Lunatic," and the rock-operatic "Fledgling" boast good karma. It's hard to imagine nonbelievers putting up with Popper for the entire hour of Zygote, but his positive vibrations will leave the faithful with a warm glow.