Cactus Juice

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One of the most accomplished groups to emerge from the SoCal ska scene, Mobtown now return with their second full-length album, Cactus Juice. Featuring a splendid mix of stunning instrumentals and sublime vocal tracks, the band's polished sound and superb musicianship can't help but impress. Traditionalists the band may be, but Mobtown boast an eclecticism that embraces stylings as far afield as steel pan, doo-wop, '60s surf, and even acid-drenched space rock. The latter makes an unexpected appearance on the extended intro and middle break of "Easy Rider," a magical mystery tour through the astral plane led by smoky trumpet solos. Elsewhere, soulful jazz, sensational swing, upbeat ska'nkers, and bouncy '60s-styled reggae are featured, while Latin flavors predominate across a clutch of numbers. Yet for all their excursions across the Jamaican musical spectrum, Mobtown maintain their own unique sound, instantly identifiable by their debonair styling and gorgeous limpid soloing. The carefully crafted instrumentals shimmer with atmosphere and emotion, regardless of tempo and mood, with even the most bouncy numbers sharply performed, a crispness that the excellent production deftly emphasizes. The vocal numbers are equally superb, with the beautifully bittersweet "Pets Go to Heaven" sure to tug the heartstrings of animal lovers everywhere. Other standouts include the soulful "Josephine's Revenge" and exhilarating "Jump Up," both excellent showcases of songbird (and trumpeter) Amy Long's exquisite vocals. Most albums inevitably feature a few less than dazzling tracks, but not Cactus Juice; every number found here is a sparkling gem worthy of attention.

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