John Brown's Body Amplify

After this Boston reggae act virtually imploded in 2006 after the death of bassist Scott Palmer and the subsequent exodus of several long-term members, the new line-up takes JBB in a new, less roots-y direction. Gone are Kevin Kinsella's gorgeous one-drop spiritual meditations found on earlier albums and in their place are Elliot Martin's more contemporary, pop-minded compositions. Martin has led this new incarnation into territory that may distance the band from long-term fans, who will be sad to see the emphasis on roots reggae dwindle in favour of experimental, reggae-based music that flirts with electronica, heavy rock and hip-hop. That being said, Amplify is a daring record with an overall vision to avoid the rut that North American reggae bands often find themselves unable to climb out of. Instead of trying to recreate a classic sound, "Ghost Notes," "Give Yourself Over," "Be At Peace" and "Speak Of The Devil" add a touch of roots but leave lots of room for the band to stretch their legs and add a heavy-handed stamp of originality. Other tracks, like "Sky Juice" and "Amplify," rejoice in the newfound freedom to put some distance between the band and their earlier sound. And with a rhythm section this heavy, and Martin's voice this sweet, the results should win over many new listeners. Amplify is the sound of a band recreated, retooled and refreshed. (Easy Star)