|"Love Has No Boundaries" by Beres Hammond [VP Records - 2004]|
Certainly not every great album that you've ever heard comes from an unlikely source. They're not all very difficult to find and they didn't all arrive in some ultra remote and obscure package which is now lost for all eternity. Sometimes they're expected and predicted because the album before it was great and the album before that one was great and the one/s after it have been as well to some degree. Such is the ever revolving case of the legendary coolest man in the entire world, Beres Hammond. Undoubtedly one of the finest vocalists Reggae music has ever produced, Hammond has spent the latest stage of his career, from ever since the turn of the century or so, putting on an absolute master class in making and producing albums of Reggae music.
Over that time, he has produced four new studio albums, the first two of which, including 2001's MAMMOTH "Music Is Life", were classic sets, while the most recent pair, "A Moment In Time" from 2008 and "One Love, One Life" from just last year, were borderline classics and I would not be at all surprised to see either or both get better with a substantial amount of time behind them. However, with that being said and even in acknowledging class amongst classics, as a complete project, he may have had more SPECTACULAR moments, but I think that the best unit, amongst them all was the album which probably didn't get as much attention as the others did, but was definitely very well respected in its time and remains so to this day. Beres Hammond's specialty is making some of the finest love songs ever heard in any arena of music and one can very readily say that the well celebrated crooner has at least partially been responsible for the births of potentially hundreds of thousands of people (with a career dating back more than forty years now) who, most likely would also grow up to be fans themselves… Beres Hammond might be accountable for aiding in the production of several generations of families throughout the world. To my opinion, when it comes to recent works, they all lead in one direction, one of the greatest love albums ever done in history and an album which we now, FINALLY, put in terms of greatness. "Love Has No Boundaries".
Despite being very, very basic and just a bit bigger than ninety seconds long, the album's interlude and first song is definitely one of it's most spectacular features. Here, although specified and tuned in, Beres Hammond essentially lays out much of the inspiration for the album and what you can expect on the following nineteen songs. When you hear this for the first time, you hope that the rest of the album is just as good… It is.
Lyrics: "I'm that voice that's blowing in the wind. And I'm that heart that's always hurting deep within. I'm that soul that's longing to be found. I'M THAT SONG THAT WILL ALWAYS BE AROUND"
#2. 'Solid Love'
'Solid Love', in retrospect, is a very interesting selection from "Love Has No Boundaries" and probably one of its most so for a few different reason. Of most note is the nature of this song. This thing, EASILY, should have been a more respected and popular song than it was and although it did do well if I recall correctly, it had and retains some sort of special quality about it which I do not think has ever really been widely appreciated. To my ears, the piece was one which was very basic and just dealt with people showing a bit more RESPECT to your fellow man and woman. To arrive here, Hammond uses a variety of different lyrical tools, but the predominant one, of course, is love. He nears the point where he virtually equates "love" and "respect" at times and others he also goes in the course of adding PEACE to that equation as well. On top of that, the song was amazing in its sound. A very easy and a 'missed' hit in my opinion which still sounds so good.
Lyrics: "Solid love - solid nation. Then we won't know desolation. Rock stable foundation"
#3. 'Good Old Dancehall Vibes' featuring Big Youth
BOOM! A song which definitely did receive its fair share of respect, the SWEET 'Good Old Dancehall Vibes' has become one of the signature moments from the album and has not lost an ounce of steam throughout the years. The song found Hammond tapping the venerable Big Youth to join on a delightful old school composition which was fully his specialty. The results were a dazzling ode to music which will, clearly, take a lot longer than nine years to forget.
Lyrics: "Ain't nothing like good old Dancehall vibes. Where the music is just as sweet as the wine. And folks would sing to every line. ALWAYS THAT ONE SONG THAT STAYS ON YOUR MIND"
#4. 'Songs Of Happiness'
Wicked production duo, Mafia & Fluxy, would lay the vibe for the more than fitting followup to 'Good Old Dancehall Vibes', the just as delightful 'Songs Of Happiness'. These days I actually rate this song higher than the very popular one immediately preceding it on the album and it was another very underrated and overlooked selection in my opinion. You'll find better songs on this album, but for what it is and what it said, I don't know that there is one which captures the MOOD of the entire record better than this one. A COMFORTABLE thrill of a song which you cannot listen to without smiling.
Lyrics: "Now once there was a time when we were young and didn't know. So we fooled around, played around cause nothing really mattered. But time has passed us by and I'm surprised you don't even realize - You're and angel and its your responsibility to - SING SONGS. Sweet songs of happiness. BRING JOY. Your love and nothing less"
#5. 'All For Me'
TEARS! SHIT! It had been a little while from the last time I had heard 'All For Me' and I… I just wasn't ready for it. This song, this WONDERFUL song is simple. It's about falling in love and being in love, existing as a pair and really just putting someone else ahead of yourself in all situations. For me, the major notion of note here is that Hammond is saying that when you do reach that stage when you are willing to do everything for someone else, then that is when you KNOW that you are truly in love and have reached a point where this song speaks directly to you. For me, personally, I was fortunate to reach that point years ago and this song hits nerves in my mind which get a regular workout. BOOM!
Lyrics: "And as I hope for lovely things. Happiness and the sweetest dreams, I think of you endlessly. And if for any reason I should travel far away. Would you wait for me? Hey, now would you babe? Think about it good. It's a big decision for long time. Anything you say right now could never be a wrong time. Would you turn your back on temptation that this world would wanna bring? And stand firm without hesitation, yeah. All for me"
#6. 'Thanks Fe Mi Pride & Joy' featuring Buju Banton
Anytime you could get Beres Hammond and Buju Banton [pictured] on the same track, you were potentially dealing with something special and the Donovan Germain and Penthouse Records produced 'Thanks Fe Mi Pride & Joy' was one of their finest links in my opinion. This song so nicely compliments the song before it because it, literally, expands on this notion of living life for someone else. Here, we've gotten to the point where you take pride and REVEL in it. It has a bigger vibes to it, but also contains some of the same sweetness found in 'All For Me', with a bit of spice courtesy of Mr. Myrie.
Lyrics: Buju - "I really love you gal, world without end. TWO FULL CUPS OF YOUR LOVE IS WHAT THE DOCTOR RECOMMEND!"
#7. 'Love Mood'
'Love Mood' was no frills and quintessential delectable vibes from Beres Hammond. Here is a song which adds considerably to the presentation of this album. It may not leap out at you as being so great (it may do that to YOU, it does for me, however), but what it does, like 'Songs Of Happiness' is to add to the overall vibes you get from this album. The song itself is an easy one, it is about the experience of being in love and somewhat the kind of 'helpless' (and I mean that in a good way) and vulnerable feelings which accompany it.
Lyrics: "I tried to tell myself, 'I'm a man. I'm strong. I can wait. Still I find myself standing guard at my gate. Looking up, looking down. Looking just about everywhere. Hoping that, at any minute, you will appear. And capture this magical moment. Love don't come across in years. And another page in history and only you can compliment a dis ya love mood"
#8. 'There For You'
Because it was once 'All For Me', I can certainly be 'There For You' when you need me to (that was AWFUL writing, but you know you liked it) (you're easily pleased and have low standards in life) (I digress). Although not necessarily and exact 'response' to his own song. The tune is the other side of 'All For Me' and really, again, just speaks to the sacrifices people make to be in relationships and ENJOY making to be in them. What I most like here is this very interesting coolness about the song (and I know, saying "cool" in a Beres Hammond song is absolutely ridiculous, because they're all like that), but what I mean is that Hammond is saying that his dependability to his special person is almost like an instinct. Like he has no choice but to do it so although he'll "come running" "as long as the sun shines", you already know that. You also already knew that the GORGEOUS riddim behind it was via the Taxi Gang.
Lyrics: "You taught me how to love again. You even talked to me when I need a friend. True love is such a wonderful thing. Not everybody knows exactly what it means"
#9. 'No More'
And sometime (oftentimes) we make mistakes. 'No More' is the examination of a very large and, seemingly, very easy mistake that people make when it comes to love: Taking someone for granted. I'm damn happy to say that out of all the STUPID things that I've ever done for/in love, that hasn't been one of them (but I'll probably get around to it one day, given my history), but it is a common problem and here we find someone dealing with it and trying to make amends and get a second-chance. 'No More' is a fantastic song with an old track from Treasure Isle behind it and, really, one of the best pieces on this album.
Lyrics: "No need to accuse me. I'm guilty - nothing to say. If it was me, I know I'd wanna go my way. But you're not me so can I have another chance with you? It won't be like before. I know just what I'd do"
#10. 'If This Isn't Love'
Robbie Lyn and Star Trail's Richard 'Bello' Bell helmed another sweet tune from "Love Has No Boundaries" and the first full piece from its first half, 'If This Isn't Love'. Again, this was another offering which was fairly straight-forward, but with an impeccable sound to it. It is also another composition which is an examination of some state of being in/falling in love (more on that later). This time around Hammond takes a look at that questioning stage when you're not completely sure what it is that you're feeling, but you do know that, at the very least, you are in love with that feeling and it is good enough.
Lyrics: "And whatever you do, may the Father's richest blessing do with you. Bring you back safely to me at the end of the day"
#11. 'Love Has No Boundaries'
TEARS! NO! NO! NO! I NEED A NEW SHIRT! DAMN! The single finest song on the whole of "Love Has No Boundaries" was also its title tune. Looking back and looking at the credits, perhaps the background of the song should have forecasted what was to come as an abundance of talent was responsible for it. Featured here is the work of, alongside Beres Hammond, Willie Lindo (who produces much of the album actually), Sly from Sly & Robbie and even Christopher Birch ["some of these girls need to go back to church"] [WHAT!] [BOOM!]. As you would expect, in any situation, such an overdone amount of expertise on a single tune, just shy of four minutes (or four days long, either one) made for one MAGICAL moment and, in my opinion, not only the greatest song on this album, but one of the best of Hammond's storied career as well.
Lyrics: "I GIVE YOU ALL THE STRENGTH YOU NEED! THE AIR I BREATHE - I'LL SHARE! AND I'LL FEEL YOUR PAIN, OVER AGAIN. I SWEAR!"
#12. 'Feel Love'
Lindo returns on the song charged with keeping the vibes intact following the MAMMOTH title track, the somewhat pounding 'Feel Love'. You can make an edge on an album like this, but when it matches perfectly, it won't be that kind of aggressive or angry sound. Instead, it'll be just a little more spicy than much of the rest of the work and, oddly enough that was precisely and wonderfully what a tune called ["late night ghetto"] 'Feel Love' was on an album called "Love Has No Boundaries".
Lyrics: "I'm guilty as hell! Never want to admit. Couldn't hold it no longer, yes a mi di cap fit. So right - if you hear that I'm jealous, when I see you smiling with them other fellas"
#13. 'Let The Good Times Roll' featuring Natural Black
"This is what the world has been waiting for", says Natural Black [pictured] who joins Beres Hammond on the album's third and final official combination, the HUGE and very popular 'Let The Good Times Roll'. Again, if you look at who worked on this one, along with Natural Black, then what it turned out to be should be no real surprise. This time Willie Lindo produces a track which is played on by Sly & Robbie and DEAN FRASER amongst others and what results is a spectacular song. Hammond is someone who played a very critical role in the early development of Natural Black and the chanter well shows his gratitude (biggup Jah9) by putting forth an unforgettable display of his talents on an equally memorable entire selection aimed at telling people to enjoy the finest things in life, wherever you find them.
Lyrics: Natural Black - "Only di one life, so mek wi enjoy. Ism and schism, dat fi destroy. Hear mi now Sandra, listen now Fitzroy - settle fi di girl and boy. From it fi gwan, just let it happen. Jah Livication time, so come yah mi friend. Full joy yaself until The Father say when. Pure niceness from start to end"
#14. 'Weary Soldier'
Another Mafia & Fluxy vibed piece, 'Weary Soldier' was, essentially, a social commentary from Hammond which made it a definite changeup on an album like this one. This one is so compelling because, in typical Beres Hammond fashion, his attitude towards the widespread violence is one which almost comes off as being somewhat cavalier and effortless. His idea isn't that the world needs this or that, he's saying. 'Stop the fighting so we can have fun again'. I make it simpler, of course, but that's part of the idea on a truly remarkable composition.
Lyrics: "Weary soldier, it's time to lay it down. The war is over, full time we have some fun"
#15. 'Be That Person'
'Be That Person' and its very large sound (courtesy of Lindo) is a song which I definitely have a newfound respect for. It was never a favourite of mine, but as I came more into the mind of writing up this album, I gave it a deep listen and it well began to loosen up just a little to my ears. The sound is almost overwhelming and, on an album like this, it is nearly alone in that regard and it so much stands out. As for the ideas behind the song it is another love-focused piece which kind of seems to come through the channel of being on the precipice of falling in love but wondering if the person you're with is willing to take that next step and 'be that person' you need them to be. The longest song on the album and one also featuring a dominant performance by Dean Fraser, again.
Lyrics: "You'll fit just in my humble home. No restriction, you'll be free to do. I'M GIVING ME TO YOU"
#16. 'If I Should Wait'
Beres Hammond wonders openly if it is all worth staying around for and being patient on 'If I Should Wait'. Seemingly having everything in place and all in order, the one thing in question is the intent of his woman. Again, this tune is another speaking on a very common and relatable stage of a relationship. And it is one which really goes to help the EVOLUTION of the record as well.
Lyrics: "I know you said you needed some time but, no indication how long. Signs that you care and you do need my love, or am I reading you wrong? Now that it stands, I'd like to make plans, I'm crazy for you baby every time. I'm certain that I can live up to the vows I made. Now it's up to you"
#17. 'Not Over Until It's Done'
The unexpected 'Not Over Until It's Done' isn't really a love song at all, which makes it rare on this album, but just like 'Weary Soldier', it very much solidifies its place on it and does it almost exclusively based on its quality. Though it may not follow the running theme of the album directly, it is an EXCELLENT song which deserves to be on an EXCELLENT album and that was what "Love Has No Boundaries" was. The actual piece is a very cleverly written one which really deals with being an inspiration to the masses and saying that no matter how fucked up things can become, there is always a chance for a turnaround at some point. I also really enjoy how it is arranged as 'Not Over Until It's Done' is really a student, Beres Hammond, telling other potential students or younger students what he's learned and how he is, still, very much in the developmental process on this just like the rest of us.
Lyrics: "Last night I learned my lessons well, so I have to tell you. SOMETIMES THE THINGS WE CHERISH MOST HAVE NO REAL VALUE"
#18. 'Let It Flow'
'Let It Flow' sublimely follows the song ahead of it as it is another dealing with inspirational themes and here we even get into a bit of the Gospel with the singing chanting behind him (which includes Hammond, himself, as well as the great Marcia Griffiths) on the presentation of the tune. That PRESENTATION is simply one of the best on the whole of "Love Has No Boundaries". This one literally DRIPS with some special type of quality which is apparent throughout.
Lyrics: "Don't let the sun catch you crawling. Don't let the fight in you disappear. Hold on to that feeling and don't let go"
#19. 'Fly Like An Angel'
And finally - TEARS! 'Fly Like An Angel', another deviation from the general premise of the album, albeit a very slight one, has always been a favourite of mine here. This song is really about someone just reaching their full potential in life and doing what makes them happy. It also deals, wonderfully, with the thought of leaving others behind. Be it in one way or another, for good or for sadness, sometimes you have to leave nice people behind and Beres Hammond, appropriately, knows that because his album is now done, you may go and listen to another. But if you listened to this one and you heard what I heard, you'll be back.
Lyrics: "Could you grant me request? Be careful where you make your nest. Cause there are eagles that search the sky. SO REMEMBER WHEN YOU FLY!"
I think that the intent behind and the purpose of "Love Has No Boundaries" is and always was rather obvious. This is an album which deals with, on every level, LOVE. Even on some of the songs, such as 'Not Over Until It's Over' and 'Let It Flow', which step outside of the 'boundaries' of what is the norm here, those songs can be ultimately linked back to love as well. Sometimes in love you can have war and you can have down times during which you need to be picked up in some type of way and I actually think that was the direct intent in those cases as well. Because of this, "Love Has No Boundaries" is basically a concept album. You can counter that by saying that Beres Hammond has had a 'concept career', which has revolved around singing songs about people falling in love, but that was amplified in an even greater way here where love was grounded down in to a fine, powdery (biggup Sir Lancealot) substance. But Hammond always does that, so what made this one so special?
A quality which I think is a lost one in terms of giving credit is the PRESENTATION of music. Typically when you tink of such a thing, you go immediately towards the live performance, but you can have a great deal of presentation and management in a studio somewhere as well and it is a quality which Beres Hammond has exuded for his entire musical life. There are so many great songs on this album and they are great to their respective cores, but I don't know if I'm as impressed by some (or all maybe) of them if you give them to someone else to do. Even someone like Jah Cure who could definitely make the listening to the singing of a textbook interesting, because he's amazing - I don't think could have presented these pieces as strongly as Hammond does. And music also very much comes with a sense of theatre and dramatics and "Love Has No Boundaries" is a very compelling set. It isn't compelling in the same way that a… Tommy Lee song might be (can you imagine how such a combination might sound? Beres Hammond & Tommy Lee) (WHAT!), but for the type of music that we have here, "Love Has No Boundaries" is a dramatic piece. It is a movie of an album which is thrilling, but in a unique way, from beginning to end. I am certainly not the biggest fan of the subgenre's, but to my opinion the album may actually stand as one finest pieces of Lover's Rock music from the modern era easily as the undisputed champion of the style put on a display which was absolutely brilliant. The album, in the near decade since its release, may not have picked up much in terms of popularity, but it has, at least for me, remained the leader when it comes to Hammond's music in recent years. The aforementioned "Music Is Life", "A Moment In Time" and definitely "One Love, One Life", enjoyed a popularity and lifespan which "Love Has No Boundaries" did not, but I think it was better than all of them in retrospect and, upon closer look, I'm even more sure now.
What else do I know? Not very much at all, but I do know that it was a Bonafide Modern Classic!