Review: John Brown’s Body – Kings And Queens

Review: John Brown’s Body – Kings And Queens

John Brown’s Body – Kings And Queens
Track Listing:
1.) Step Inside
2.) Invitation
3.) Plantation
4.) Empty Hands
5.) Fall on Deep
6.) Dust Bowl
7.) Shine Bright
8.) The Battle
9.) Starver
10.) Old John Brown
11.) Deep Summer
12.) Searchlight

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: April 16th, 2013
Record Label: Easy Star Records
Website: JBB Website

Group Background:
American reggae trailblazers, John Brown’s Body (or JBB) started making music nearly twenty years ago and haven’t stopped since. The Brooklyn-based octet has released seven studio albums, including 2008’s chart-topping (Billboard Reggae) “Amplify” and 2012’s “JBB In Dub EP.” Several JBB albums have received international critical acclaim, and they have toured the globe with the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Further, STS9, J5 and fellow Easy Star Records alum The Black Seeds. JBB is known to fans around the world for their high octane live shows and progressive-reggae sound, dubbed as “Future Roots”—which features a unique blend of reggae rhythms, head-bobbing bass lines, horn-driven funk and ska, with a splash of dub.

Album Review:
“Kings and Queens” is everything you’d expect for JBB. The album pushes musical boundaries, and is a bold attempt to reclaim the band’s rightful position atop the progressive-reggae thrown. To say “Kings and Queens” features a “full sound” is an understatement. The album is overflowing with roots, dub, ska and electronic influences—think of a finely balanced cocktail of contemporaries, The Blacks Seeds, Slightly Stoopid and Matisyahu, along with legends Burning Spear, Steel Pulse and Sly and Robbie.

While there isn’t necessarily a clear theme running through the album, many of the tracks speak to hope and injustice, including protest song “Empty Hands.” The track is a dark, keys and bass line driven anti-war/anti-violence tune, with a catchy chorus. Lead vocalist Elliot Martin delivers the lyrics with a little reggae and a little hip-hop, creating an almost-Damian Marley feel.

The album’s last song “Searchlight” is a lighthearted, up tempo, hip-hop tune that features some of the strongest vocals on the album. Among all the tracks, “Searchlight” is sure to get fans smiling and moving on the dance floor—but, it’s also the only track that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album’s sound.

From bass to horns to keys, JBB’s strong musicianship shines through, along with the album’s “translate-ability” to the live setting. In other words, the album doesn’t feel overproduced, and although there is a lot going on musically, none of tracks leave you scratching your head thinking, “How are they going to pull that off live?” Also of note, is the trademark JBB horn section, which is heard on nearly every track. The strength of the horns couldn’t be more obvious than on “Plantation” and “The Battle.” The horns vary from hard-charging ska, to funk, to subtle R&B.

With “Kings and Queens,” John Brown’s Body delivered once again, demonstrating the diversity that is “American Reggae” and pushing musical boundaries in ways very few bands are capable. The progressive and refreshing mix of sounds has “Kings and Queens” poised to top the reggae charts, making the album one of reggae’s best in 2013.

Written & Reviewed By: Kit Chalberg

[Editor’s Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]