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Bim Sherman - "The Need To Live" (Century)

Summer 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 song.

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.

- SK

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[email protected] | March 2002 | Issue 24
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