Reggae Icons- Beres Hammond

Beres Hammond is one of the most underappreciated reggae artists of all time, with a career beginning in the late 1960s, with his next album ‘Never Ending’ coming out on the 12th of October. Best known for his work during the 90s, Beres specialised in lovers rock and recorded some of the most incredible songs to ever come out of Jamaica, being one of the most underrated artists in music globally, let alone just in Reggae.

Born Hugh Beresford Hammond on the 28th of August 1955, in Annotto Bay in St Mary. Beres was the ninth out of ten children. He grew up listening to his father’s contemporary collection of American R&B and Jazz, featuring the likes of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. Beres also adored native Jamaican music during the ska and rocksteady eras, previously stating that the artist that had the biggest influence on his career was Alton Ellis. In his early years he refined his vocal talents in his church choirs.

Between 1972 and 1973 Beres competed in several local talent contests, one of which lead to the recording of his first single a cover Alton Ellis’ ‘Wanderer’.

Also around this time after winning a talent contest, Beres began performing for tourists on the hotel circuit. Something which the young artist found very discouraging.

In 1975, Beres also joined Zap Power, a group of Jamaican sessions musicians, featuring as the lead singer, releasing an album on Island Records in 1978 and enjoying a hit single in the same year with ‘The System’.

During his time with Zap Power, Beres was also recording solo work, releasing his debut album ‘Soul Reggae’ with producer Willie Lindo in 1976. Before the release of the album, Beres was being pressed by his label, Aquarius, to pick a song off the album to be released as a single, instead of picking a preexisting song off the album, Beres went back in the studio and recorded a new track ‘One Step Ahead’, which was a massive chart hit in Jamaica and remains one of his most iconic and impressive songs. This also explains the position of the track on the album being the final song to feature.

Beres had further chart success in Jamaica in 1978 with the release of Joe Gibbs produced single ‘I’m In Love’ which was also a chart topping hit.

Beres left Zap Pow in 1979 to concentrate on his solo career, working initially as a session singer. He recorded his second solo album, ‘Just A Man’, in 1980 with Joe Gibbs.

Following the 1985 release of the ‘Let’s Make A Song’ album, he founded his own music label Harmony House, in case arrangements with other companies fell through. The first two singles ‘Groovy Little Thing’ and ‘What One Dance Can Do’ were major hits for Beres and were influenced somewhat by the emerging dancehall style that was becoming popular in Jamaica. ‘What One Dance Can Do’ began to start to break Beres internationally, but also went on to become his biggest ever Jamaican single. Both singles were pressed and distributed by Beres himself.

A self titled album also appeared in 1986 and scored another hit for Beres with ‘Settling Down’

In 1986, as Hammond was becoming increasingly famous in Jamaica, he was tied up and robbed by armed thieves at his house in Jamaica. Hammond, went on to leave the country and spent some time away from the spotlight living with relative in New York.

Beres reunited with producer Willie Lindo in New York and recorded the 1988 album ‘Have A Nice Week End’ and also teamed up with emerging crossover star Maxi Priest for the 1988 duet ‘How Can We Ease the Pain’.

Following Hurricane Gilbert in September 1988, Beres returned to Jamaica and recorded ‘Putting Up Resistance’ with producer Tappa Zukie, which was released in 1989 and spawned two hits for Beres with the title track and ‘Strange’.

Beres permanently returned to Jamaica in 1990, signing with Penthouse Records and teaming up with producer Donovan Germain for the enormous hit ‘Tempted to Touch’ which topped the charts in Jamaica and his perhaps his best known work internationally.

This success paved the way for his 1992 album ‘A Love Affair’, which included further hits ‘Is This A Sign’ and ‘Respect To You Baby’

Beres began to attract more and more attention from major labels and recorded prolifically throughout the 1990s. ‘Sweetness’ came out in 1993 on VP Records, featuring ‘Putting Up Resistance’ which features the legendary U-Roy, and impressive work on album cuts like ‘Come Back Home’ and the title track.

In 1994, Beres released In Control with Elektra Records, which became his best selling record, moving more than sixty-seven thousand copies in America, featuring some of Beres’ best work such as ‘No Disturb Sign’ and ‘Reggae Calling’.

Surprisingly, this was Beres’ only album released on Elektra Records, as he soon became embroiled in a dispute with the label over the slow pace they believed he completed his material at.

His 1996 Harmony House album ‘Love From A Distance’ was distributed by VP Records, this album began to cement his reputation as one of the most popular lovers rock artists around. With ‘Sweet Lies’ and ‘Take Time to Love’, the latter of which features Shaggy, are both standout tracks on the album.

Next came Getting Stronger in 1997 and A Day in the Life in 1998, following this frantic pace of releases throughout the 90s, Beres took a few years break from his frantic recording pace.

This next album came in 2001 with ‘Music is Life’, which earned Beres a Grammy nomination, which featured the incredible ‘Rock Away’ and the previously released 2000 hit ‘They Gonna Talk’.

‘Love Has No Boundaries’ came in 2004 on VP Records featuring Buju Banton on ‘Thanks Fi Me Pride & Joy’ and Big Youth on ‘Good Old Dancehall Vibes’.

A ‘Moment In Time’ followed in 2008 and featured the hit ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ and the incredible ‘I Feel Good’.

Beres’ most recent release came in 2012 with ‘One Love, One Life’, which was split into two discs, one dealing with love and the other dealing with social issues.

Beres’ work throughout his career has been incredible and easily compares with pioneering artists from other genres, Beres is an artist that has been criminally underrated on the international stage, not receiving the credit that his incredible voice and songwriting deserves. Looking back on his career just gets me even more excited for his upcoming album on Friday. 

Look back on some of Beres’ incredible music below

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