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Amplify (Bonus Track Version)

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Album Review

Elliot Martin joined John Brown's Body as a backup singer on the band's second album. Over the next ten years, his role grew to the point that he began sharing lead vocal and songwriting duties with founding bandleader Kevin Kinsella, and Martin gradually emerged as the more compelling and exciting songwriter. With Amplify, Kinsella is gone, and his departure reveals something interesting: while his melodies were dryer and his rhythms more spare and straightforward than Martin's, he also exerted a certain amount of restraint on the band's sound. And, unlike Martin's, Kinsella's lyrics were always coherent. Amplify is both a better and a worse John Brown's Body album for being the first without Kinsella: the songs swirl in densely packed arrangements, and the rhythmic foundations are much more widely varied than in the band's earlier, rootsier years. Martin writes some of the most gorgeous melodies in all of modern reggae music — if you can listen to "Sky Juice" and "Ghost Notes" (a heartbreaking tribute to the band's late bassist Scott Palmer) without the hair rising on the back of your neck, then you should have your pulse checked. And on "Give Yourself Over" the entire band is at its blissfully uplifting best. But some of these lyrics still sound suspiciously like nonsense, and on the album's title track the sonic density starts to sound suspiciously like an inability to make choices about what to leave in and what to take out. Still, those who thrilled to the wildly varied soundscape of Pressure Points will find plenty to love on Amplify. Highly recommended.

Customer Reviews

Great Unified Vision

"Amplify" takes JBB in a tighter, more unified direction and builds on the strength of Elliot Martin's songs on "Pressure Points". "Give Yourself Over" is a great, pop gem, "Ghost Notes" is a beautifully eerie remembrance of friends who have passed away, "Zion Triad" boasts a tough and timely critique of Bush/Cheney politics and "Push Some Air" is, dare I say, danceably disco. The die-hards may have difficulty embracing the changes and broad appeal of these songs, but this new album is a delight!


Can't wait until Kevin gets back in the JBB saddle. Elliot is good, but Kevin is great. The album becomes repetitive. What made Pressure Points and Spirits All Around Us great, is the trade off between vocalists. Jah Works is lucky to be working with Kevin. It isn't John Brown's Body without the originator.

A Subpar Album of a Once Great Band

This album is okay, although I would have rather not spent my money on it. Kinsellla was the heart and soul of the band that I used to love. The ever more influence of Ellliot, and later the departure of Kinsella, has taken the band in a direction I do not like. Kevin Kinsella as the leader, check out their albums previous to "Pressure Points," are the band at their best. Luckily, I never tire of listening to "Among Them", and "All Time" so I can continue to listen to those instead of this album. Now, 10 ft. Ganja Plant seems to be the greatest American reggae band.


Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Named in honor of the legendary abolitionist, reggae unit John Brown's Body was led by singer/guitarist Kevin Kinsella, a longtime fan of Caribbean music who formed the group Tribulations while attending college in Boston in 1989. Three years later they took top honors in the annual Yamaha Soundcheck contest, touring Japan as a result; in 1993 Tribulations also recorded in Jamaica, releasing the LPs The Gate and Daddy Good Pieces before disbanding. Striving for a more organic roots reggae sound,...
Full Bio
Amplify (Bonus Track Version), John Brown's Body
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Customer Ratings