Like rock singer Joe Cocker, reggae singer Beres Hammond is a captivating mix of soulful and dynamic, adding gravitas to the simplest of lyrics while keeping his earnestness in check with plenty of nostalgia for the simpler, happier, old days. That doesn't mean he's a back-to-the-earth Rasta, but a man who prefers "grown folks" lovers rock and the socially conscious material of crooners like Dennis Brown or Gregory Isaacs. With his voice in fine shape, his 2012 effort, One Love, One Life, looks to give each of his styles a bit more room, putting ten songs of love and romance on the One Love disc, and ten songs of social awareness on the disc dubbed One Life. If the set were split in two, these would be two of the more valuable albums in the man's discography, with the songs of love placing only slightly higher. That's due to the clever songwriting of tracks like the ska-inspired, Freddie McGregor-like bouncer "Can't Waste No Time" and the humble "Lonely Fellow," where hunky Beres convincingly plays a lovelorn wallflower. With most of these cuts co-produced by Hammond himself, the production goes from smooth jazz cool ("No Candlelight") to punchy and dubby ("Crazy Dreams"), with the One Love side closer "The Song" being the one cut that's polished and pop. The One Life side offers the hot along with the cool as well, but takes more chances with the ecological and sociological issues of "Still Searching" swirling like a funk tornado inside the singer's head. Level-headed, old-school reggae tunes influence the sound of "Don't You Feel Like Dancing," a warm, comfortable highlight that revisits the idea of his hit "Rockaway," where nostalgia for sweeter music is really nostalgia for sweeter times. "Prime Time" is a light-hearted, Shaggy-styled swerve with plenty of studio tricks that come right out of the world of ragga, but the closer "I Humble Myself" is vintage and grand Beres as Strachan sister Samantha joins the ranks of powerhouse voices that have performed moving duets with the man. One Love, One Life may be a bit too big and conceptual for newcomers to consider, but fans should think it very necessary, and shuffle the two "sides" together whenever they crave an oversized and excellent Hammond experience.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2