On Love Is What We Need, its first full-length in five years, the group -- singer Damon Arterbridge, singer-bassist Eustace Bobb, singer-guitarist Mike Scott, and singer-drummer Terry Bobb -- mines territory that will sound familiar to anyone who has even the most limited exposure to reggae. It acknowledges the Almighty Jah ("Thanks and Praise"), contemplates a return to Africa ("Ethiopia"), and celebrates its cultural identity ("Rastafari"). The themes are nothing new and even verge on being clichés. But what works in the Ark Band's favor is Arterbridge's soulful voice and the blues guitar riffs that Scott plays -- his leads in "Father," "Pain and Misery," and "Can't Live" are more complex than what is typical of most reggae. The title track, one of the best songs on the album, is a straight-ahead soul number that owes more to Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson than Bob Marley. At a time when dancehall reggae (a genre that's heavy with images of violence, making it the Jamaican equivalent of gangsta rap) is what sells, the Ark Band's songs about peace, love, and understanding sound refreshing, even if they're not particularly original.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.