Bim Sherman - "The Need To Live" (Century)
is coming, and with spring more or less here, these sunny
days call for sunny songs booming from a boombox by the
pool. Some might feel it a cliche, but i think reggae music
is so right for lazy, sunny days, and the new Bim Sherman
collection on his Century label is a fitting soundtrack
for the hot months ahead.
"The Need To Live" is a collection of rare and
previously-unreleased recordings he made with Adrian Sherwood
and the On-U Sound collective before he passed away in 2000.
Bim Sherman, a.k.a. Lloyd Jarrett Vincent, was a talented
Jamaican singer notable for his plaintive and emotive vocals.
Light as a feather, his soulful vocals speak to music fans
of all stripes.
His eventual collaborations with the avant-garde and somewhat
abrasive On-U Sound posse surprisingly resulted in delightful,
jazzy electro-reggae that is highly listenable. The songs
compiled on this collection consist of tracks old and new,
some of which once featured other vocalists. "Be My
Lighthouse," originally a schizophrenic, political
tirade called "S.D.J." by Lee Scratch Perry and
Dub Syndicate has been transformed into a beautiful love
Romantic numbers like "To Be Free" and "Memories"
are modestly backed up by sharp synth sounds and the unmistakable
percussion of Style Scott and Bonjo I. Social messages are
present among the disc's lovely, slow-skankin reggae tunes
as well. "More Is Insane" is particularly memorable
for it's chants against wastefulness and Skip McDonald's
squealing rock guitar.
The one track that really sticks out amongst the others,
and whose instrumentation is credited to the Tierra Sur
Band, is "Devious Man and Woman." With its slightly
un-rootsy sound and guantanamera samples, i can't help but
recall Wyclef Jean and his Carnival album. The song "No
Longer" recalls Jean as well. Bim Sherman may not be
as widely recognized within mainstream music circles as
Wyclef Jean, but both artists share a similar soulful, spiritual
approach to their music.
It seems to me that most of the songs on "The Need
To Live" wouldn't sound out of place on commercial
radio, with its lush production and singalong refrains.
While reggae continues to remain at the outer edges of popular
culture, Bim Sherman and Adrian Sherwood managed to find
a sound that comes very close to blurring the fine line
that separates reggae roots music with contemporary songwriting.
While this collection is by no means comprehensive of Bim
Sherman's past work, it puts his On-U years in perspective
and thankfully collects rare, vinyl-only tracks onto compact
disc for the first time. And it is certainly an excellent
introduction to one of reggae music's most underrated vocalists.
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