Jamaica’s soulful and rhythmic Beres Hammond with opening act, reggae fusion’s popular Maxi Priestwill perform at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale Friday, November 9 at 10 a.m.
Over the course of a 39-plus year career, Beres Hammond has poured his smoky-sweet voice over every kind of rhythm track, from the funked-up reggae jams of the ’70s fusion band Zap Pow, to the lush instrumentation of his 1976 album Soul Reggae to the spare digital beat of his 1985 dancehall breakthrough “What One Dance Can Do.” He is considered Jamaica’s greatest practicing singer/songwriter and anyone who has listened to his music or experienced the fervor elicited by his live performances would undoubtedly agree.
The ninth of ten children born in Jamaica’s garden parish St. Mary, Hammond made regular trips to Kingston to mingle with the singers who frequented the downtown record shops. After high school, Hammond entered several local talent shows including the Merritone Amateur Talent Contest, where several reggae stars including vocal trio The Mighty Diamonds, Sugar Minott and the late Jacob “Killer” Miller also got their start. He joined the fusion band Zap Pow as lead singer in 1975 and simultaneously pursued solo projects.
In 1976, Hammond released his first solo album, Soul Reggae (Aquarius Records) produced by his friend Willie Lindo. It sold more than 2,000 copies in Jamaica during the first week of its release. His subsequent single, “One Step Ahead,” held the #1 spot on the Jamaican charts for three-and-a-half months. Despite the popularity of his music, Beres failed to reap any financial rewards. That changed in the early 1980s when he formed Harmony House. His Harmony House debut single, “Groovy Little Thing,” marked the first time he capitalized on his music. A succession of hit singles recorded for various Jamaican producers soon followed.
In 1990, his album A Love Affair for Donovan on Germaine’s Penthouse label raised Hammond’s popularity to new heights. Cuts like “Tempted to Touch” and “Who Say” with Buju Banton are still as effective in the dancehall today, as they were in pre-releases. The ’90s proved to be Hammond’s decade, during which he blazed a trail of modern classics for a variety of producers, from the strugglers’ anthem “Putting Up Resistance” (Tappa) to lovers’ laments like “Come Back Home” (Star Trail) and “Double Trouble” (Steely & Clevie).
In 1992, Hammond released the single “Fire.” It received critical acclaim within the Reggae music industry and it was an extremely sought after 7″ single. In 1994, he released In Control that yielded the R&B flavored single “No Disturb Sign.” His first album of the new millennium, Music Is Life (2001) featured an appearance by Wyclef Jean and contributions from Earl “Chinna” Smith and Flourgon and received a Grammy nomination.
In 2008, Hammond’s appearance at Jamaica’s premier music festival Reggae Sumfest was hailed as the finest of the three-night event. That same year he released A Moment In Time (2008), estimated to be his 25th album, featuring guest spots by Jamaica’s finest musicians. Just a Man (2010) followed.
Hammond’s upcoming studio release is entitled One Love, One Life. It is a double-disc album consisting of 20 songs.
As verified by his long-awaited retrospective, this year’s Maximum Collection, Maxi Priest has earned his place among other greats such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals and Dennis Brown in spreading the reggae gospel far and wide. This is an extraordinary achievement for a singer steeped in Jamaican music, yet raised in South London. Priest’s joyous brand of reggae and lovers’ rock, infused with charismatic R & B have brought him a level of success that no other British reggae singer has matched. His songs became the soundtrack for the hardworking immigrant families who’d faced discrimination and yet still found the resolve to build strongly knit communities.
Max Alfred “Maxi” Elliot had first learned to sing in church. The second to last of nine brothers and sisters, he’d honed his craft listening to Jamaican greats such as John Holt, Ken Boothe and Gregory Isaacs, as well as singers like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, the Beatles, Phil Collins and Frank Sinatra. After rehearsing in the basement of his parents’ house, Priest spent months practicing above Lee’s Sound City record shop in Deptford as part of Bad Breed, with whom he recorded his debut single, “Hey Little Girl.” He was also a founder member of Saxon International, and played a key role in it becoming London’s #1 sound-system – home o MCs like Smiley Culture, Peter King, Tippa Irie and Philip Levi, who together with Pato Banton, had revolutionized reggae music with their rapid-fire deliveries.
After joining the Twelve Tribes of Israel and embracing Rastafari, he was given the name Maxi Priest. As he learned more about his cultural heritage, Priest took part in some of London’s historic, anti-racist demonstrations and has continued to express roots and culture and reality themes in his music ever since.
His first hit, “Should I,” had already flown to #1 on the Black Echoes charts before Maxi signed with Virgin Records, and his follow-up “In The Springtime” announced the arrival of his 1985 debut album, You’re Safe. That was the year he was invited to appear at the UK Reggae Sunsplash and gave a crowning performance in front of 25,000 people.
It was “Strollin’ On, produced by himself and Paul Robinson that brought his first taste of chart success in March 1986. “Strollin’ On” was taken from his follow-up album Intentions, on which he collaborated with Aswad. By then, Priest was headlining shows and taking reggae music into venues such as the Astoria.
A short while earlier, he and Robinson had produced Philip Levi’s “Mi God Mi King,” which made history by becoming the first British reggae production to reach #1 on the Jamaican charts – a feat that remains unequalled to this day.
In 1987, Priest recorded Maxi, produced by Sly & Robbie in collaboration with Willie Lindo that yielded. the hits “Some Guys Have All The Luck,” “How Can We Ease The Pain” (shared with Beres Hammond) and an enchanting cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” which went Top 5 in Britain, Top 10 in the US and also entered the country and western charts. Further international acclaim came with his 1990 album Bonafide which spawned the hits “Just A Little Bit Longer, “Best of Me,” “Human Work of Art,” and “Close To You.”
As Priest’s fame went global, he released Virgin’s Best of Me, containing “Housecall” featuring Shabba Ranks, Fe Real and Man With the Fun featuring “That Girl” an American Top 20 hit.
Maxi Priest holds the distinction of being one of only two British reggae acts (along with UB40) to have an American Billboard #1 hit – “Close to You” in 1990. A duet with Roberta Flack, “Set the Night to Music,” reached the American Top Ten in 1991.
Community has always been important to Priest and is why he’s readily taken part in local campaigns such as No Trigger aimed at lessening gun violence.
Maxi Priest’s timeless, cultured vocals can still be heard in today’s reggae mix, as heard on his latest release “Nothing But Trouble” – a song that’s the title track of his forthcoming album.
Tickets are $79, $59 and $39. A $104 VIP Dinner Package is also available and includes a ticket to the show*. All seats are reserved and available at all Ticketmaster outlets online at www.myhrl.com and www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone: 1-800-745-3000. Doors open one-hour prior to show start time.*Additional fees may apply.