Words by Jesse Serwer—
If you don’t think Beres Hammond is Jamaica’s best-loved living singer, then… you’ve never been to Jamaica. The average yardie under the age of, say, 45 has grown up hearing Beres’ songs at birthdays, weddings and dances for the majority of their lives and, for many, his lyrics are as deeply ingrained as those of Bob Marley. His voice is the sound of tender moments. While the island’s most popular artists tend to be maligned as much as they are praised, you rarely hear a disparaging word about “the King of Jamaican Lover’s Rock.” Probably, no artist is capable of drawing larger crowds in diaspora communities like Brooklyn and Fort Lauderdale. When Brooklyn’s brand-new arena, the Barclays Center, hosts its first Caribbean event on Dec. 12, Beres will headline.
Yet, outside of the Caribbean community, Beres remains relatively unknown. Which is sort of a travesty, as the crooner’s sound is just as rooted in R&B as reggae (his earliest recordings were with the funk band Zap Pow, while his solo debut was the aptly titled Soul Reggae). His voice and spirit (see his occasional, yet always powerful and unpretentious, forays into consciousness) recalls that of Marvin Gaye as much as any of the R&B singers who’ve been touted as Marvin’s second coming over the years.
But Beres’ latest, One Life, One Love, due out Nov. 12, could change all of this. For starters, there’s the cover. Beres’ album sleeves have never been as memorable as his songs but this one, photographed by LargeUp’s own creative director/co-founder Martei Korley and designed by Greg Burke, places him in a new visual context, with design redolent of a vintage Blue Note cover. Musically, the double-disc One Life, One Love, is classic Beres, just a little more organized. The first disc is on some straight-up lovers’ business, while the second contains songs with a more socially conscious or spiritual edge to them, highlighting the dichotomy that’s always colored the singer’s catalog.
The first single, “In My Arms,” definitely falls into the former category, with his smoky-sweet, “Bourbon on the rocks” voice enlivening a fluid early ’90s riddim. Stream it below, along with “Dancing Beauty,” a non-album track on the Reggae Music Again, or 9.58, riddim in which Beres, ever the gentleman, comes to the defense of a castigated female with an uncomfortably sexy way of dancing.
“In My Arms”
SEE ALSO: Toppa Top 10: 10 Beres Hammond Classics