Beres Hammond's 25th Album Debuts November 11th
With a voice as soulful as Otis Redding's, as romantic as Luther Vandross and as purely Jamaican as reggae itself, Beres Hammond has been a consistent hitmaker since the '70s. Those qualities are still on display on his 25th album, "A Moment in Time."
Due November 11 on VP Records, the set reconfirms a widely held appraisal of the 53-year-old as Jamaica's greatest living singer-songwriter.
"You would be hard-pressed to find a singer alive that has the catalog that Beres Hammond has," says Ainsworth "Big A" Higgins, an on-air personality at Jamaican radio station IRIE-FM. "Someone would have to look at the works of (the late) Dennis Brown and Bob Marley to find his equal in terms of hit songs, and he continues making hits for a generation young enough to be his grandchildren."
Hammond's most successful effort for VP Records, the 2001 Grammy Award-nominated "Music Is Life," has sold 46,000 U.S. copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. His all-time best seller is the 1994 Elektra album "In Control" (67,000 units).
"Beres is not a follower of trends. He is not going to make Sean Paul records -- he is going to make Beres records, traditional Jamaican records, and those records have a sales ceiling in America," says Dante Ross, who signed Hammond to Elektra in 1993 and is now vice president of SRC Records. "He doesn't need the industry to survive. He tours like a mad man, his voice is timeless, and he will be making great records for another 20 years."
Hammond's lack of crossover success is of greater concern to the reggae industry, which struggles for a consistent presence in the mainstream despite the music's far-reaching influence, than it is to Hammond. His recent tour attracted capacity crowds in Toronto and Montreal and upward of 20,000 fans at a free concert in Brooklyn's Wingate Park.
"Things couldn't be any better for me than they are now. When I first started out, I just wanted to be on the road, performing. I never imagined it to be like this," the bespectacled singer says, gesturing to the luxurious interior of his tour bus after his Brooklyn performance. "At one time there wasn't any bus, and now we have two on the road, and I have had it like this for many years. There are many artists who have been on the Billboard charts and still can't have this kind of fan base."
Hammond has amassed his global fan base with a succession of No. 1 singles in Jamaica and on reggae charts internationally. His songs seamlessly shift between political and spiritual themes and occasionally pay homage to the artists who have most inspired him.
But Hammond is renowned as reggae's most sublime romantic crooner. Whether he's singing about pledging a lifetime of devotion ("Full Attention") or stealing love on the side ("Double Trouble"), his impassioned vocals bring a deeper texture to the love-song prototype, as do his lyrics, which adapt everyday circumstances as handily as references to the Songs of Solomon.
For "A Moment in Time," which he produced at his Harmony House studio in Kingston, Hammond worked with an ensemble of Jamaica's finest musicians. "Still Will Be Heaven" juxtaposes orchestral strings with a one-drop rhythm as Hammond muses on a long-term relationship that hasn't gone stale over time but has grown more profound, much like his music.
"I just get a song in my head and record it in the matter it came to me," he offers as the reason for his enduring allure. "I don't change nothing, and it always seems not to be wrong."
The Reggae News Agency