While he might be best known for his nineties hits, Beres Hammond has been recording music for over thirty years. He got his start in the early seventies with reggae group Zap Pow, and cut two solo records before officially leaving the group in 1979. Just A Man is his second album, recorded in 1979 at Joe Gibbs studio, and newly rereleased on VP Records.
While I generally associate Joe Gibbs with dancehall and roots reggae, Just A Man is closer to disco soul. It starts off with the uptempo song “Music Is A Positive Vibration,” which sounds a lot more like Barry White than Bob Marley. The song has a four-on-the-floor beat, funky bass, horns, and strings; think Studio 54 not a Kingston sound system. The only hint of Jamaica is Hammond’s slight accent.
“Do This World A Favour” and “Keep My Wheel Turning” are the other disco tracks on the album. While the disco elements are dated, the songs still work, mainly because the songwriting is strong. “Do This World A Favour” is an impassioned plea to live right, and “Keep My Wheel Turning” is scorching R&B.
It’s not all disco, though. Many of the songs could easily be lovers rock if they had a reggae riddim. “John Crazy” is a slower track that uses reggae instrumentation and intonations to create a slow-burning soul song. “Just A Man” is a powerful ballad, followed by the pining “I’m Lonely.” It could give Al Green a run for his money, as could “Let Me Love You Tonight.” The disc is rounded out with two tracks not included on the original album: “Seasons,” which was released as a single, and “Set Me Free,” which Hammond recorded with Zap Pow.
Just A Man ‘s soulful disco is not what you might expect from Joe Gibbs Studio, but it’s done well. This album is considered an under appreciated gem by many reggae fans. This reissue gives you the chance to hear it yourself.