Reggae. It’s hard to deal with when done poorly, as it becomes droning and repetitive. Done well, however, those repetitive grooves become entrancing, literally. John Brown’s Body does a good job of not only keeping my interest, but actually getting me into the music at times.
Musically, John Brown’s Body is on the edge. Their ample use of samples and drum effects keep the beats fresh, and keep me from feeling this band is a bad Marley clone. The keyboard work is at times standard, and the horns never stand out or upstage the rest of the music, which is fine by me. The bass work is, for the most part, typical reggae, but the guitars are scattered so liberally across the stereo mix that at some points, I half-way expected them to come from behind me or down from above, (which, as a side note, would have been way cool).
Lyrically, the songs are all very intriguing. This is probably what makes for such an interesting listen the second time. “Love is a Fire” is an upbeat, very danceable tune, and its lyrical content is fabulous, with lines like, “Fire gonna burn the heart that set it / Love is gonna change the soul who let it.” Pretty fuckin’ deep, wouldn’t you say?
A personal favorite track of mine has to be “Live and Let Live.” The drums are way spacey throughout the track, and the tune has a wonderful, totally positive lyrical message. The chorus goes “Live and let live, Give and forgive, Let your love come in.” Throughout, the album is conscious of the conditions of the world in which we live, and quick to point out what needs to be done, both on a personal basis, and in the grand scheme of things. I heartily recommend it.