Bim Sherman - Tribulation
Ital West (aka Dispensation)
Ital West Dub
Love Forever (Vocal)
Love In the Ghetto
Love Forever Dub
Tribulation ('75 Mix)
Golden Stool Dub
Just Can't Stand It
Weak Heart Men
Weak Heart Men Dub
World Go Round
Every Where You Go
Golden Locks Dub
Lego Natty Cale
My Woman (Part 2)
Lovers Leap (Part 2)
|Bim Sherman, also known
as Lloyd Tomlinson or Jarret Vincent, was a man with more than one name
but only one voice. I knew him as Bim, a singer of songs whose, music
stands as a testament to what is possible if you are driven to express
yourself, if you push and strive and practise and are blessed with a
unique talent. The material on this album was recorded in Jamaica in the
mid to late seventies when there was something in the air, something in
Sherman's heart and an inner drive to improve his life. He needed to get
out of the Kingston Ghetto that was for sure. living in the ghetto, or
the 'pit' as Junior Delgado used to refer to it, so traumatised the
young Sherman that once he left Jamaica he never once went back. This
speaks volumes about him and the songs on this album tell you so much
about Bim's take on life and his Jamaican experience.
Bim hailed from Westmoreland. Wet by Jamaican standards. When I went there myself it rained which made me think of him. It suited Sherman's personality in many ways. Introspective and melancholy. Wet humid nights practicing and singing for his family in Westmoreland. On Sundays the chance to perform in front of others at the local church. But for Sherman Westmoreland was just another place to get away from. Escaped from there and never went back. From there to Matthews Lane, Kingston. At first he moved in with his brother but had to move on. He had been a fisherman at one point in Westmoreland. Then he did electrical work for a while. Bim was a survivor. He had to be. He had the scars to prove.
Although he had a sharp sense of humour and could be witty Bim was not a ready smiler. A good mimic when he was in the right mood but generally introspective and serious. The recording studio was undoubtedly where he was most comfortable. In the studio late at night in Kingston: Jah Woosh, Dr. Alimantado, Horace Andy, Ronnie Davis all the brethren are there. In the studio safe from the menace outside. Cutting tunes. This was Bim's world. With his spars. good herb, nice vibes and then the music. Always the music to lose yourself in. It's Sherman's turn to voice. Pulls off his tam. Tape rolls. Drums splash and 'buff' right on top of the rhythm. Right on time. His voice sounds great. The melody comes easy. Feeling relaxed with himself. At ease. His voice blends perfectly with the Gladiators' harmonies. Outside is dread. Police, hustlers, informers, misery and shame. Too much pressure out there. Sherman enjoyed the studio. His place. Free to express himself.
The picture on the front of this album says much about Bim. Shot quickly on the move by photographer Dave Hendley. Bim on the street in Kingston. Young, cool, smiling. "Keep on trying, I can't stop now". The late seventies. Before London and all the other stuff. Always well turned out. Once I 'shopped' with Bim. Took him all day to choose a shirt. Attention to detail. Things had to be right. The voice and the song had to be right. Constantly practising. Always looking for a way to finance the next record. Sherman used many of his rhythms again for different songs he had written and there were two different cuts of many of Sherman's releases. 'Tribulation' was originally made in 1975 and a King Tubby's mix came out around 1977. Strangely one of his best records 'Ital West' aka 'Dispensation' has not been available again until now. this is a peach of a record. He also recorded the song 'Danger' on the same rhythm. Two great records on the same rhythm by the same singer. Very Bim. Not unusual in reggae but this fierce independence was born out of not wishing to be 'used' by producers. It meant that Sherman only ever cut tunes for a couple of other producers. He had tried the 'other' way with Gladstone 'Gladdy' Anderson arranging at Treasure Isle. Didn't work out. He couldn't work that way.
"Lots of people, like Randy's or Joe Gibbs want to record me, and even producers before them like Coxsone. But it's not easy in JA (Jamaica) to get what you want out of recording and those people have a range of tricks they use to opress you..."
The bulk of his work and his best material he did for himself. Controlled it, pressed it and sold it himself. He had to keep control. Come too far and worked too hard to lose what he had. Always put the money back into his music. If he didn't have the money for studio time or musicians then voice a different song on the same rhythm. You could do that at Tubby's. No need to record a new rhythm. You don't need much money with a strong imagination.
It's difficult to imagine that the 'Ital West' title did not have some connection with Bim's writing partner Bob West about whom little is known. Some say he moved to one of the other islands in the Caribbean and some say he moved to the USA. Wherever he is now it is clear that he played a major part in Bim Sherman's Jamaican musical output. A Billie Strayhorn to Sherman's Duke Ellington. The music and ideas flowed freely while Bim was in Jamaica.
His first record was a seven inch called '100 Years' on the Element label then 'Love Forever' on the Red Sea label followed by a succession of forty fives on his own Scorpio and Sun Dew labels. Many of these singles later appeared on UK based sound system operator Lloydie Coxsone's Tribesman label on an album called 'Love Forever'. It wasn't really recorded as an album. More a collection of singles released to enhance Sherman's growing reputation in the UK. Sherman only ever really cut one album in Jamaica: a showcase album called 'Lovers Leap' named after a well known beauty spot in Jamaica. Even the title had an element of tragedy about it. Very Bim.
"The legend of Lovers Leap is based around the romance of two slaves who, to prevent separation from each other, jumped from a 1700 foot cliff."
The opening track on the 'Lovers Leap' album is the beautiful 'My Woman'. The bass line later became the spine of Creation Rebel's 'Starship Africa' album. the song, as many of Bim's songs are, is haunting. The woman who inspired him to write this had clearly rocked his world.
Tragedy, melancholy and that voice. That golden voice. Soft spoken when he was not in front of the microphone but all the tension and the pressure eased away while he was singing. Sherman like Alton Ellis. Most vocalists from that period did. Alton the great unsung hero of Jamaican music. Alton the innovator. While Bim was growing up he listened to Nat 'King' Cole a lot. He liked the phrasing and that laid back relaxed approach. Never really mastered the art of performing live.
Too much noise. Too many distractions. He felt nervous performing live and never really expressed himself the way he wanted. 'Bim Shiman' as some of the early records said. He had always been shy. But Sherman liked the studio. He always had. A magical place. Late at night with the lights low. His place. Hood herb. Not too many people. Bim's place.
The songs on this album may not change your life in the way they changed some of ours when we were younger but nothing was and is impossible. Bim died tragically of cancer in 2000 and, with the passing of time, people may forget this diminutive soft spoken singer from an island in the Caribbean. Perhaps Bim Sherman never really was certain of his own name but he always knew where he was going that was for sure. The man with a golden voice had to endure many tribulations to make the music possible. I know his music will endure. Enjoy it and cherish it. He would have liked that.
Pete Holdsworth - June 2007
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