John Brown's Body

All Time

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Before signing on with the Shanachie label and going relatively big-time, this Ithaca, NY-based roots reggae band made this remarkably well-realized and nicely produced debut album. The band's distinguishing characteristics are already well established here: an overriding concern with lyrics of spiritual and social uplift, a rhythmic style based on the classical pre-dancehall reggae of the mid-'70s, and an explicit sonic debt to such great Jamaican studios of the period as Dynamic and, especially, Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark; in fact, "Vanity," on which bandleader Kevin Kinsella sings in a sweet falsetto while the drums push their way through tight compression and guitars splash around in a puddle of reverb, sounds like a specific tribute to Perry's work with singer Junior Murvin. The loping rockers beat of "Rockstone" leads into a dark and mystical one-drop groove on "Superstar," and "Give Some Love" drops a little steel guitar into the mix to add a strangely countrified element to the mix. Though maybe not quite as great overall as Among Them, All Time stands easily with the best of this fine band's recorded work.

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