John Brown's Body

Among Them

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Listening to this disc is a vaguely disturbing experience, because this American reggae group has captured so uncannily the sound of early dancehall reggae, the kind that came out of small Jamaican recording studios in the late '70s and early '80s. Only the digitally clean production quality betrays this as a product of its decade. And hey, that's a compliment. The elastic rocksteady groove and sweet horn lines (though not the violin obbligato) of "Love Is a Fire" could have come out of Coxsone Dodd's studio in 1974, and Dodd would have been proud to release it. "This Is Not the End" wallows in a wet, reverb-heavy ambience and features an authentic "yugga-yugga-yugga-yo" chorus, then slides into an excellent dub mix. And speaking of dub, King Tubby would have killed for the flanged drum sound on "Live & Let Live." The lyrics are strictly conscious, focused exclusively on issues of love, righteousness, and political uplift, though they skirt around the explicit Afrocentrism of most roots reggae (not surprisingly, given the band's overwhelmingly Caucasian makeup). This is one of those very rare things -- a great American reggae album.

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