For a band that seeks to strike a more hopeful chord than that of your typical Chicago Cubs fan (though, after the playoff weekend that was, I'm thinking this may not be the most appropriate of metaphors...yikes), the past few years have been particularly cruel to John Brown's Body. Back in '05, the Boston reggae band probably thought the only thing that lay in wait was the happy grind in support of their fourth album, Pressure Points. Turns out, they'd have to endure the death of bassist Scott Palmer, the departure of several long-time members (including singer and co-founder Kevin Kinsella), and career threatening throat surgery for lead singer Elliot Martin.
Yet here they are, three years later, soldiering on with a new lineup, and new album to boot. Setting an appropriately triumphant tone from the get go, Amplify is a thick, heavyset collection of reggae anthems that are strikingly contemporary in nature. Sure, tracks like "Be at Peace" and "Give Yourself Over" stem from classic, roots reggae influences. But JBB lift some serious weight on Amplify, beefing up traditional bedrock with a walloping, syncopated low end, a crisp, percussive shuffle, and big, bad, and bold brass horns. Progressing things along even further, the record exploits the genre for a fitting vehicle to chauffeur other modern influences to the surface. At numerous times, including during the title tracked opener "Amplify", a steady force rap invades the dub. "Ghost Notes" employs a good deal of rock balladry in its' instrumentation. And "So Aware" is flooded with the tasty, nylon grooves of a Spanish guitar. The result is a well informed release in which JBB truly excel as a full ensemble. It is also a fitting tribute to JBB's ability to weather the dark and stormy times. Their reward - and your's for that matter - is a compelling collection that let's some much deserved good vibrations do their therapeutic work. - david pitz