CD Review: 'Re-Amplify' by John Brown's Body

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Friday, July 24, 2009

JOHN BROWN'S BODY

"Re-Amplify"

Kindred spirits: Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, Matisyahu

Show: Thursday at 8x10 in Baltimore. Doors open at 8 p.m. 410-625-2000. http://www.the8x10.com.

In its second decade, John Brown's Body has changed lead singers and is augmenting its traditional roots reggae sound to make it more radio-friendly. The results are so-so.

In 2008, the group released "Amplify," which featured a couple of dance-ready songs ("The Gold" and "Push Some Air") that sounded as if they were aimed at clubs.

"Re-Amplify" takes two and remixes them twice each, then throws in other remixes and nice live track for good measure. The remixes are mostly house music, stretching the vocal lines and harmonies and laying a standard house drumline beneath.

Unfortunately, "Amplify" provides uneven material. The first two songs on that album are catchy and enjoyable, so they were good choices for the remix EP. But the rest of the album is less remarkable. Because those two are each remixed multiple times (and because house music works better when you're with other people), the EP is more of a showcase, rather than something to listen to straight through.

But it's not clear where the band wants to go. Earlier albums such as "This Day" showed a group in command of its own sound. The recent experimentation is interesting, but the band sounds unsure of how far to go with it. The best track on "Re-Amplify" may be the live track, which is telling: The electronics are interesting, but what John Brown's Body does best is make people dance.

-- Alexander F. Remington


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