Juba Dance Orange

Benjamin Lamar was born and raised in the south side of Chicago and has absorbed all its musical lessons from the last 50 years. Currently based in Brazil, the sunniest aspects of these traditions are all on display with Orange. Common, circa Electric Circus, is a decent point of comparison for the overall sweep of the album, from to fragile samba to booty bass to the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The album starts with an inside out dub bass line behind the samba-centric "Tomorrow.” Lamar’s vocals are reminiscent of Michael Franti’s but are more versatile. The entire album is bathed in dub and all the elements of the mix are highly spatial-ised and often subject to liberal amounts of delay and reverb. But the sound is never diffused — a track like "Union Hall” nails itself to a two-beat 808 throb with all the other elements floating through the mix, Lee Perry style. "Willow Blues” features front porch acoustic guitar blues; it meanders a bit, like certain other tunes, but the looseness does not distract. The last third of the album contains several of its best tracks. Blending spacey, late ’60s Chess string passages with Donny Hathaway’s social consciousness, "Adams and Wabash” and "Orange” are the disc’s emotional high points. (Audio 8)