From the opening track, the album, “Book Of Life” rides the duality of earthly pursuits and celestial reward, and features an on-the-nose use of a rhythm section that evokes toes in the Caribbean sand and heads in the clouds. As the album unfolds, so too does San Jose, California’s band, Yeshua & the Hightones’ ability and desire to push the boundaries of their reggae based sounds, embracing rock, Latin and other alternative elements. All of which are spiced with a rich brass flavoring, and soulfully raw vocals. Technical or progressive reggae, can that even be possible? Well that’s what Yeshua & the Hightones do. Not on purpose but the reggae they offer is very talented. Reggae can sometimes sound boring and uninspired, due to the regular use of the age-old genre clichés, but that’s not what this band does.
Yeshua & the Hightones never stay in their comfort zone, and track after track on “Book Of Life” sees them continually reinventing their sound and adding or changing some elements to each musical progression. They are the perfect example that Reggae isn’t the lazy genre it is sometimes assumed to be by the uninitiated, we could easily call this album progressive reggae with the amount of dedicated work the band put in on their song structures and instrumental solos. Something very enjoyable in this album is the fact that everyone gets a shot in the spotlight.
And that means that Mike Thiebaut (lead guitar), Enrique Medellin (drums), Yeshua Orozco (vocals), Jarod Flores (saxophone), Joseph Guerrero (Keys), Antony Biancini (bass), all get to shine brightly. Some even shine a blinding light, like Flores’ searching saxophone, Thiebaut’s fiery lead guitar and of course Yeshua’s all-embracing vocals. Reggae is a bass driven genre, and Bianchi plays his part perfectly with lines and runs that stand out from all those other instruments, which isn’t something easy to produce.
If some of you still think Reggae is nothing musically, just an easy four notes song with the one drop rhythm, listen to these guys and tell me if this is what you thought reggae was. On the other hand, the lyrics and storytelling is exactly what you’d expect from a socially conscious genre such as Reggae, hence Yeshua & the Hightones always keep a keen eye on the world’s injustices and inequities in their purview. The opening, and titular track, “Book Of Life”, quickly connects you to the magic and spirituality of the band’s music, with the saxophone and vocals burning like the embers of a fire.
On the 6 minute, “Fyah Burn”, Yeshua sounds like a master tailor, threading his trademark vocal brilliance around the rhythm and chord progressions. Your head will bop. Your heart will smile. By the time Mike Thiebaut’s final stunning guitar solo comes through, you will have seen the light. “Mama Said” slows and darkens with a cautionary metaphor while it slides on the backbone of an intoxicating melody and the ever-present saxophone. By this time it’s already clear that the production is noteworthy, with the ability to maintain space between parts crucial to songs that could just as easily feel overcrowded.
Moving on through the album you will discover a pair of sampled spoken word tracks with particular intensity and powerful political and social messages – “Message of a Hidden Hand” and “Message of Self” are not to be missed. Yeshua Orozco has an ability to shift with ease from rapid-fire toaster to soulful crooner. Savor these diverse credentials in “Whole World is Watching” and “Teach Them”. For full impact brass, fiery groove and sweet harmony get a grip on “Conscious Decision”, which along with “Fyah Burn” make the album’s absolute standout tracks. The 9 track show is perfectly closed with a typical roots rocker in the form of “Messenger”.
It is hard to find something wrong with this album, and San Jose, California’s reggae-rock band, Yeshua & the Hightones is definitely one of the most musically talented reggae bands of today. The beauty of a band like this is that they stand so independent from most any music – not just reggae!