This week’s “classic album” is Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come – which is actually the soundtrack of a film and therefore contains some songs that aren’t by Jimmy Cliff.
Some Historical Context
This will be short. I’ve never heard this album before.
Oh, I know who Jimmy Cliff is and I recognise a few of his songs. He was a surprise guest at Paul Simon’s recent gig in Hyde Park and I enjoyed the three or four songs that he played there.
In a wider context, reggae is really not one of my favourite musical styles.
The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.
1. You Can Get It If You Really Want
Happy that it starts with a song that I know well. Pretty sure I remember this from the early 70s. Sounds like a song that was part of my childhood. It’s a happy, bouncy song and it soon has me smiling. To me, it sounds more pop than reggae.
2. Draw Your Brakes (performed by Scotty)
This sounds more like traditional reggae to me. And therefore a good deal less enjoyable. This is what always happen when I listen to reggae. A song starts off sounding good, but I get bored by the time we get halfway through it. Never heard of Scotty. No interest in finding out more about him.
3. Rivers of Babylon (performed by The Melodians)
Another song that, of course, I know well – although not in this version. It’s not bad, an improvement on the previous song, but I’d rather be listening to the Boney M version. In fact, the best version I own is by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Quite like Sinead O’Connor’s version too. Wikipedia tells me this is the original. And once again I’m bored rigid when there’s still a minute to go.
4. Many Rivers to Cross
Another song I know well. And really like. The pattern emerging here is that I like the Jimmy Cliff songs best – largely, I suppose, because they are all so un-reggae. This one is more gospel than reggae.
5. Sweet and Dandy (performed by The Maytals)
Presumably this is the Maytals of “Toots and the …” fame. I know they are a famous reggae act, but I don’t think I’ve every heard anything by them. And if this is anything to go by, I won’t be searching out any more of their material.
6. The Harder They Come
I thought I knew this one well too. But it turns out that I only really recognise the chorus. The most reggae Jimmy Cliff song so far and currently I’m enjoying it. Still two minutes to go though.
7. Johnny Too Bad (performed by The Slickers)
Less than a minute into this and I’m already looking to see how much longer it’s going on for. Repetitive and dull. Really didn’t enjoy that.
8. 007 (Shanty Town) (performed by Desmond Dekker)
Oh, I know this one too. But, once again, the excitement of recognition wears off quickly and we’re bored.
9. Pressure Drop (performed by The Maytals)
Damn. More Maytals. Very much like the last one. And just about as enjoyable (i.e. not at all).
10. Sitting in Limbo
Looks like this is the only Jimmy Cliff song on the album that didn’t already know. Again, it’s more pop than reggae. And, again, it’s pretty good. Oh wait. All gets a bit repetitive towards the end.
11. You Can Get It If You Really Want
Didn’t we already have this one? That’s a bit lazy.
12. The Harder They Come
Oh, and we finish with Jimmy Cliff’s most reggae-ish song on the album. And for once a reggae song kept my interest through to the end. That’s probably because I already knew the song well.
I wondered if my eyes would suddenly be opened to the glories of reggae. That didn’t happen at all. I seem to quite like Jimmy Cliff though, so I might try a couple more of his albums. The more traditional reggae songs on the album were just a waste of space though.