Reggae music is trick territory. At once, the dread-locked joy and the spiritual attitude that comes lyrically (and with lighting spliffs) with the music and culture are enough to establish the genre as concrete as the desperation and powerful yearning of the blues. But like my relationship with the blues, reggae often subsides forgettable, and far too repetitive to leave a real impression with me.
The Harder They Come is a 1972 Jamaican film which features mostly the songs of Jimmy Cliff on the soundtrack. (I haven't seen the film but supposedly it stars Cliff himself as some sort of poor man-turned-drug dealer on the verge of a pop reggae hit. I gotta see this movie, man.) It being a Jamaican film, the collection of songs are entirely reggae and like I said, it's mostly a Jimmy Cliff effort with a few other tracks from the Maytals, and a great take from the Slickers called "Johnny Too Bad".
Reggae has never sounded so soul-refreshing. Cliff's voice soars and he whips some of the best pop melodies into the songs, which is what sets him notches above nearly every other reggae artist I've heard (Marley and his Wailers aside). He's really got soul, man, and he lets it all fly on "Many Rivers to Cross", one of the most breathtaking and heartfelt songs in pop music's catalog. And I really mean that.
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