Kings And Queens In Dub
John Brown's Body
Easy Star Records
CD / Digital Release
June 6, 2015
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : -||Backing : 4||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 5|
Thereís no denying that John Brown's Body is one of the most influential bands in the American reggae scene. Since their formation in 1995, they've released 10 studio albums, including a dub EP release, 'JBB in Dub', and a remix release, 'Re-Amplify'. The band has undergone lineup changes over the years, and currently boasts a full cast of skilled musicians including lead singer Elliot Martin, and three horn players who play a major part in creating their signature sound. It's clear that JBB has influence from Jamaican roots reggae, and they certainly hold true to elements of the genre-yet they've simultaneously incorporated futuristic styles in their music, which is what makes their sound truly unique and groundbreaking.
JBB's 2013 release "Kings And Queens" was well-received by critics, topping the Billboard Reggae Chart. Now two years later, they're releasing "Kings And Queens In Dub", which contains dub versions of "Kings And Queens" in its entirety. JBB's saxophonist, Drew Sayers, worked closely with Easy Star Records founders Eric Smith and Lem Oppenheimer to put together this album. It features mixes by Ticklah, Dubmatix, Dubfader (of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant), UK legend Dennis Bovell, Yesking, Michael G (of Easy Star All-Stars), Lord Echo (of The Black Seeds), and more.
Hats off to JBB and everyone involved in creating this great modern dub album. As you listen, you'll find the production quality is top notch. The original songs from "Kings And Queens" are already rich with layers, so the engineers had a lot to play with while making the dub versions. There's a striking difference between these dubs and the songs they're derived from. At times, it's like listening to a completely different song with a different feel to it. As Drew Sayers said about the album, "it reveals a whole new way of hearing the song you might not have known existed before."
Songs like "Worldwide Dub" and "Pulsing Dub" let Elliot's once-subtle harmonies become the prevalent vocal track. By pulling away elements of the song that were once dominant, little funky guitar sounds and other effects come forward. During moments of "My Guiding Dub", the music pulls away entirely and lets the vocals alone carry the song. "Paint The Sky Dub" is another prime example of how mixing can drastically change the feeling of the song. There are tons of horns on this album, a key part of JBB's sound. There's much "empty space" that you'll hear, as dubs are by nature more minimalóbut that's not to be taken negatively. It's like caverns are created within the sound, and horns and distortions can bounce around the space.
The album is both rootsy and futuristic, a sonically awesome contradiction. The first track, "People In The Light Dub", brings the skank into focus along with heavy reverb, and combined with the drum and bass, it makes for a very rootsy feel. Elliot's vocals peek through at the perfect moment so that you hear "So come inside hear the drums and the bass". The songs are also futuristic or spacey sounding, something JBB does so well. In "Land Of Plenty Dub", it somewhat sounds like you're floating around in a video game. The song gets heavy and electronic at times. Stand out songs to me are "People In The Light Dub", and the bass-heavy "Sound And Fury Dub". Admittedly the latter's original tune "Empty Hands" is a favorite of mine. The dub version is a bit softer than the original. Others at the top of my list are "Give Up The Ghost Dub", "Land Of Plenty Dub", and "Paint The Sky Dub", which uses effects that sound like you're getting into a spaceship and traveling through different dimensions.
The dub names to their counterparts are creative. Sometimes they're pulled from a single lyric of the song, and sometimes they're not. The album flows together well even though the dubs are mixed by different individuals. "Kings And Queens In Dub" is enjoyable to listen to from start to finish, and no songs should be skipped. I highly recommend it!
Review courtesy of Kayla Kush and The Pier.