On the album ?Orange,? Juba Dance combines elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop, funk, blues, and Brazilian pop to make an extremely groovy record. At the center of the disc is multi-instrumentalist Ben Lamar, a Chicago native who currently resides in Rio de Janeiro. According to the liner notes, Lamar provides (deep breath) vocals, organ, synths, piano, trumpet, flugelhorn, pandeiro, talking drum, bass, and guitar. Really, aside from the instrumental proficiency, the greatest achievement of this album is the synthesis of so many different North and South American musical styles.
Juba Dance manages to combine the eclectic hip-hop and soul sounds of Outkast (particularly Andre 3000) along with the chilled out instrumentals of Stereolab and the style and energy of a Brazilian beach party. Following this rough outline, the album manages to pull in a lot of other elements. I really like that this album relies heavily on the sounds of real instruments, but still uses electronic flourishes for a fuller sound.
One particular standout on the disc is the opening track ?Tomorrow.? The song is a high-energy combination of funk, soul, and Brazilian sounds. Additionally, the background crowd chatter makes you feel like you?re in for a party from the start. Another favorite of mine was the track ?Adams & Wabash,? which is about riding the Green Line on the El to meet that special someone. This song mixes heavy drum machine beats, horns, and smooth doo-wop vocals. I think the rhythms of this track make it feel not unlike the movement of an El ride (minus the slow zones and random stops, take that CTA!).
On those songs and several others, the heavy mix of instruments, styles, and rhythms is downright exciting. Indeed, this album is at its best when it feels the most complex and heavily instrumental, particularly at the beginning and ending of the disc. It does seem to lose steam a bit in the middle, but even in those parts, ?Orange? is an engaging listen. 8/10 -- Matt Blackall (3 April, 2007)