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What Happened

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Album Review

The On-U label was renowned for its experimentations, but even so, Bim Sherman wrong-footed his fans with his Miracle album. Its exotic hybrid styling, sparse sound, and heavy reliance on acoustic instruments was a step too far for most. However, the wild success of Steve Osbourne's remix of the set's "Solid as a Rock," prompted an entire album of club-fired make-overs, It Must Be a Dream, reactivating interest in the previously fading star. It also prompted a dramatic re-think by Sherman, producer Skip McDonald, and his band Tackhead, who provided accompaniment on Miracle. The result was the sensational What Happened, a breathtaking set that was inevitably categorized as "world music," but deserved another label all its own. Eschewing the minimalistic sound of Miracle, McDonald and the band wrap the set in instrumentation, then swaddle the sound in gorgeous, luminescent atmospheres. The entire set seems to be draped in veils that create the dreamiest of auras. This is particularly notable on the indeed heavenly "Heaven" and equally beguiling "Earth People," the two numbers that open the set. "Seven Times to Rise and Fall," in contrast, is lavished with the more majestic atmospheres of the New Romantic movement, but here the empire collapsing is the Mughals', not the Hapsburgs'. Tavian Singh's tablas give the entire set an exotic air, but they also provide a sharp edge to otherwise mostly languorous, drifting songs, particularly on upbeat and rhythm driven numbers like "Cool Down the Pressure" and "Guilty." The title track's rhythm, in contrast, pulsates, and features superb, introspective guitar work from McDonald. But perhaps the most intriguing pieces are the ones where MacDonald mixes American blues into the reggae-goes-bhangra mix. The swampy Delta swept "Truth," for example, is a sublime blend of roots, blues, and a tinge of the East. "Keep on Trying" is the perfect hybrid — Bombay blues — while the haunting "Let the Spirit Move You" has a bluesy feel, but defies any easy categorization. Many of these songs are new, some are inspired remakes of older numbers, but each one is a revelation. Sherman gives some of the best performances of his career across this set, the musicians are equally at their best, and the moods and sounds surrounding them linger long after the album is through. A masterpiece from all involved.

Biography

Born: 02 February 1950 in Westmoreland, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

One of reggae's most enduring cult figures, Bim Sherman was also among the most highly regarded singers of his generation, with his sweet, wistful, and unmistakable voice acclaimed by scholars as one of the purest ever to emerge from the Jamaican music scene. Born in 1950, he first attracted notice with his 1974 debut single, "One Hundred Years in Babylon"; the Kingston studio circuit soon beckoned, but Sherman instead went his own way, refusing to perform any material except songs that he wrote...
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What Happened, Bim Sherman
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