Thursday, May 22, 2014

Classic Album Review: OST/Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come (1972)

The soundtrack to Perry Henzell’s 1972 classic Kingston ghetto flick, The Harder They Come has become a reggae/ska staple over the years.

Less a Jimmy Cliff album and more a compilation, it is jam-packed with the pick of Jamaica’s finest early reggae artists, and it works as a virtual introductory “who’s who” of those who ignited the genre’s flame long before the likes of Bob Marley ensured its longevity in the annals of popular music.

Twelve cuts …well, ten, but we get two versions of Jimmy Cliff’s title track, and two variations on ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ (to bring Cliff’s own contribution to the album up to six), but each one is a gem. From Scotty’s ‘Draw Your Brakes’, through The Melodians ‘Rivers Of Babylon’, to Cliff’s immortal pop/gospel-tinged crossover, ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, this is all pretty essential must-have stuff for anyone proclaiming to be a true fan of Jamaican music.

Toots Hibbert’s Maytals contribute two of that outfit’s best known tracks in ‘Sweet And Dandy’ and ‘Pressure Drop’ (the Clash-inspiring original), but the album’s best moments are surely Desmond Dekker’s ‘007 (Shanty Town)’, and The Slickers’ masterclass ‘Johnny Too Bad’ (see clip below).

Awesome stuff, and it comes with the anorak bonus card of being an historically significant and hugely important release.

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