Beres Hammond

In Control

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Most reggae artists who get their one-shot, major label crossover chance flounder precisely because they aren't in control, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Beres Hammond here. He's credited as executive producer, actually produces the lion's share of the songs, has a songwriting credit on every song, and surrounds himself with Jamaican stalwarts from Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare to producer Phillip "Fatis" Burrell. But In Control just falls flat and any blame really comes down on Hammond for coming up with a collection of proficiently performed songs that don't amount to much of anything. "Reggae Calling" has its virtues (being yet another genre invocation isn't one of them), "No Disturb Sign" is a nicely drawn woman's fantasy of a man throwing his workday over for her, and "Giving Thanks" is a catchy celebration of life that generates some late momentum despite the irritating Pan pipe synthesizers. But the multi-generational reggae duets with Buju Banton ("Just Say No") and Marcia Griffiths ("It's Not too Late") are limp, "Another Day in the System" is a second-rate reprise of Hammond's classic "Putting up Resistance" with resignation as the dominant mood. Hell, even the all-but-failsafe "Armagideon Time" riff doesn't work on "I Could Beat Myself." It's a shame In Control is so lackluster because Hammond potentially seems like the ideal reggae candidate to make a crossover connection with the mainstream U.S. R&B market. As a singer, he's essentially a Jamaican Teddy Pendergrass without the gospel grit, one equally adept at writing and delivering convincing roots anthems, or charming female listeners with sensitive romantic ballads that aren't cloying sentimental mush. Too bad he didn't take advantage of his major label shot to re-cut the superb "Putting up Resistance," an anthem for the ages to rank with "The Harder They Come" for righteous catchiness that deserves exposure well beyond just the reggae faithful.

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