[15 August 2010]
PopMatters PopLocal Features Editor
The opening track of Just a Man, the 1979 sophomore effort from reggae fixture Beres Hammond, is called “Music Is a Positive Vibration”. The assertion is self-justifying, for Hammond sings it with a glee that can perhaps only be appreciated with hindsight. The album is pure R&B; it sounds as though it could have been recorded in the U.S. but for a couple of idiosyncratic Jamaican touches. Hammond still tours; the man has been singing soulful reggae and reggae-tinged soul as long as anyone, and there’s a reason. He handles the upbeat four-on-the-floor bounce of “Keep My Wheel Turning” and the mournful sorrow of “Just a Man” with equal effortlessness. One feels the formidable skills of producer Joe Gibbs and engineer Errol Thompson as well, in the dynamic arrangements and the sensitive balance between horns, drums, bass, and strings. The bonus tracks are worth a listen but the recordings are lower quality and the performances a bit more strained; the gold here is in the original eight tracks and their exuberant blend of late ‘70s R&B and Jamaican sensibilities. Just a Man positively exudes good vibrations.