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The Harder They Come (Soundtrack)

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Album Review

Some liberal interpretation of what can constitute the bonus material of a deluxe edition went into this two-CD edition of The Harder They Come, which in its original release was both a classic reggae album and a classic soundtrack. The additional material on the second disc is not outtakes from the soundtrack or some such intimately related work, but 18 high-grade vintage reggae tracks from the late '60s and early '70s. Admittedly some of the newly added songs are by artists who also contributed to the soundtrack, those being Jimmy Cliff, the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, and the Melodians. Then, however, there are a bunch of tunes by artists not involved in the soundtrack at all, like the Uniques, Dave & Ansel Collins, Johnny Nash, and Eric Donaldson. But — and this is a big but — the excellence of the additional cuts, along with how they fit well with the music on the original The Harder They Come soundtrack, makes such inconsistencies moot. The original The Harder They Come, comprising all of disc one, remains one of the great reggae albums, crossing over to a non-Jamaican audience more than almost any other reggae release of the era, perhaps because there was so much soul (both literally and figuratively) in the melodies and vocals. The 18 songs on disc two include some core reggae classics, among them some of the biggest reggae-pop crossovers of 1968-1972, including Dekker's "Israelites," Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" (yes, Nash was American, but this was recorded in Jamaica), Dave & Ansel Collins' zany instrumental "Double Barrel," and Cliff's "Wonderful World, Beautiful People." These are spiced with somewhat lesser-known delights like the Maytals' "Do the Reggay," Cliff's "Viet Nam" [sic], and Donaldson's "Cherry Oh Baby," famously covered by the Rolling Stones on their Black and Blue album. The additional disc, though strictly speaking not directly related to the soundtrack, does what the bonus material on deluxe editions should do and doesn't always successfully pull off: it makes a classic album better. And for those who want at least a little extra content tied to the film itself, the liner notes include essays by director Perry Henzell, Island Records chief Chris Blackwell, the Clash's Paul Simonon, and reggae author David Katz.

Biography

Born: 01 April 1948 in St. James, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

It's one of the music industry's great ironies that today, outside of reggae circles, Jimmy Cliff is perhaps better known for his film appearances than his music. Even after a string of hits, the singer never quite managed to break into the mainstream, although he seemed poised for international stardom during the late '60s/early '70s. The singer was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, on April 1, 1948, with the less prosaic name James Chambers. His talent was evident from childhood, and he began his...
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