A fresh release from the legendary Jamaican singer Beres Hammond dropped this past week and, as a double disc set featuring twenty tracks, it contains enough tunes to carry us all through the impending winter unscathed. The album, One Love, One Life, was recorded and produced at Hammond’s own Harmony House Recording Studio. Its sound is a smooth fusion of modern technology and vintage warmth- the clean, glistening synths that dominate many of these tracks meld perfectly with a raft of classical Hammond vocals: smoky, soulful, tender and sweet.
Breaking from the strictures of genre, Beres considers himself a singer first and foremost, refusing to be confined to reggae alone; he has drawn inspiration from artists like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding since his youth, in addition to influences closer to the bone, most notably Alton Ellis, the “Godfather of Rocksteady.” In an interview with ReggaeVille, Hammond stated: “Let me be clear, I never considered myself a reggae singer. I always called myself a singer… Meaning you can interpret anything anywhere in the world. I am so fortunate to have been a part of this reggae movement… one would easily call me a reggae singer. At this point I would not even fight you in saying what you just said…but I am a singer first. I am blessed to have been a part of this great movement of Jamaican reggae music”
Tracks like “More Time” (4:32) and “Shouldn’t Be” (4:19) both exemplify a definite departure from reggae, strongly referencing the smooth sounds of contemporary R&B. “In My Arms” (3:45) charmingly beckons the listener to “dance a little more for me” in a squared-up 4/4 time, coming on like a classic piece of lovers rock- a much-loved reggae sub-genre devoted to the romantic (and seductive) side of life. In an interesting proclamation in “You Stand Alone” (3:56), Hammond says “accept the criticisms, never be afraid”; this tune is uplifting and displays the artist’s commitment to music and singing over alignment with a pre-fabricated style. Similarly, “No Candle Light” (5:00) carries that classic Beres sound in a quick and flowing rocksteady rhythm.
Perhaps the best track on the album is “Crazy Dream” (4:23)- it is creative and colorful, with a soaring saxophone that takes us into Hammond’s personal dreamscape, revealing a scene in which his woman is crying. With a flicker of sadness, “cold as ice, the scene was not so nice,” the mis-en-scene is set as his story is iterated from Beres’ bed where, apparently, he sleeps tucked in like a baby. Its odd, brilliant, emotionally powerful- by itself, it is reason enough to check out this thoroughly enjoyable album.
Listen to “One Love, One Life” on Soundcloud!