15 Songs, 50 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jimmy Cliff’s anthemic compositions “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers to Cross” are among reggae’s most recognizable tunes, and his portrayal of populist gangster Ivanhoe Martin in the film The Harder They Come gave reggae its greatest bad-man archetype. Cliff’s 2012 release Rebirth is a collaboration between the rough-throated singer/producer and Tim Armstrong, frontman for Bay Area punk revivalists Rancid. Armstrong’s ear is unusually attuned to classic reggae's rhythms and textures, and he provides Cliff with a warm, organic sound that evokes the bubbling atmosphere of Kingston in the late ‘60s, an era when Cliff’s tales of hardscrabble sufferers were played end-to-end with soulful rocksteady by the likes of The Wailers and The Sensations and stomping rude-boy tunes by Prince Buster and Honeyboy Martin. That’s not to say Rebirth is completely revivalist. Indeed, some of its strongest moments come when Cliff puts his unique spin on rock numbers like The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton" or Rancid’s own “Ruby Soho," which in Cliff’s hands becomes a bracing ska workout. 

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jimmy Cliff’s anthemic compositions “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers to Cross” are among reggae’s most recognizable tunes, and his portrayal of populist gangster Ivanhoe Martin in the film The Harder They Come gave reggae its greatest bad-man archetype. Cliff’s 2012 release Rebirth is a collaboration between the rough-throated singer/producer and Tim Armstrong, frontman for Bay Area punk revivalists Rancid. Armstrong’s ear is unusually attuned to classic reggae's rhythms and textures, and he provides Cliff with a warm, organic sound that evokes the bubbling atmosphere of Kingston in the late ‘60s, an era when Cliff’s tales of hardscrabble sufferers were played end-to-end with soulful rocksteady by the likes of The Wailers and The Sensations and stomping rude-boy tunes by Prince Buster and Honeyboy Martin. That’s not to say Rebirth is completely revivalist. Indeed, some of its strongest moments come when Cliff puts his unique spin on rock numbers like The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton" or Rancid’s own “Ruby Soho," which in Cliff’s hands becomes a bracing ska workout. 

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