Beres Hammond

Soul Reggae

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There's a reason this album is called Soul Reggae instead of "Reggae Soul." Soul gets top billing because the emphasis is on seductive crooning and beautifully orchestrated '70s R&B, with occasional reggae sprinkled throughout. Gifted vocalist Beres Hammond establishes himself as one of the most soulful Jamaicans this side of Toots Hibbert, yet where Hibbert evokes the gritty style of Otis Redding, Hammond is more reminiscent of the languid yearning of Marvin Gaye and the Isley Brothers. His counterpart on Soul Reggae, guitarist/producer/arranger Willie Lindo, crafts several impressive faux-Philly soul backdrops worthy of the O'Jays (such as the excellent "Don't Wait Too Long") and provides the perfect settings for Hammond's romantic ballads. Unlike classic albums by the O'Jays, Gaye, and the Isleys, however, the love songs are not accompanied by much social commentary. Soul Reggae is practically devoid of political or cultural observations. Even the few songs that feature traditional reggae rhythms and production values forego the genre's expected topics in favor of matters of the heart. Perhaps the lush romanticism causes the Jamaican-influenced tracks to convey a sensibility closer to Johnny Nash than Bob Marley, but it works, because Hammond and Lindo share a passion for the pop and R&B styles they've mastered. By remaining focused on soulful ballads, the duo achieves a fluid consistency that eludes all but the best albums of any genre. Hardcore reggae fans may be disappointed by the heavy R&B content of Soul Reggae, but they'll likely be as impressed by Hammond's evocative, graceful vocals as any fan of '70s soul who discovers this obscure treasure.

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