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Wonderful World, Beautiful People

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Album Review

A fast follow-up to 1967's Hard Road, Jimmy Cliff's debut full-length, his self-titled album arrived in 1969. This second set would also introduce him to American audiences, with the set retitled Wonderful World, Beautiful People after the track selected as the first to be spun off on 45. The album would indeed charm the globe, its lavish arrangements, bouncy rhythms, and cheery lyrics gave Cliff his first international hit, breezing into the U.K. Top Ten and the U.S. Top 25. The powerful protest song "Viet Nam" followed "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" onto a single in the new year, and climbed even higher in the American chart than its predecessor. These two 45s vividly illustrated Cliff's thematic versatility, with the album almost evenly divided between powerful cultural numbers and more personal concerns. Of the former, beyond the poignant "Viet Nam," there was a soulful rendition of "My Ancestors," the infectious "Sufferin' in the Land," and most magnificent of all, "Many Rivers to Cross," a timeless masterpiece with which Cliff's name will forever be entwined. The song was majestic, while songs like "Time Will Tell" and "Use What I Got" were more intimate, as Cliff described his own impoverished childhood, and the strategies he used not only to survive but prosper. A reprised "Hard Road to Travel" and "That's the Way Life Goes" both address survival as well, reinforcing Cliff's universal message that no matter how tough life is, better days are possible. Cliff oversaw the album with his longtime producer Leslie Kong, creating a set that had a true island sound, but glossing the arrangements with symphonic overdubs that were so appealing to northern audiences. Kong's session band, Beverley's All Stars, were a dazzling backing band, and are notable throughout the entire album; their work as extraordinary as Cliff's own. More phenomenal recordings were to come, but this album remains one of the singer's most masterful.

Customer Reviews

One of the best reggae albums ever!

This album is on my all-time favorite list. every song is good chillin out reggae music. the music is great and the back-up singers add great melodie to every song. I cant say enough about this album. Definetly buy this one.

a must buy

Any serious reggae enthusiast must, must, absolutely must add this one to their collection....and listen why Jimmy was inducted in the 2010 hall of fame.


I'm a 60-some-year-old white guy . . . . thank you for "Vietnam" . . . . .


Born: April 1, 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. James, Jamaica, on April 1, 1948, with the less prosaic name James Chambers. His talent was evident from childhood, and he began his career...
Full Bio