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Reggae - Released January 1, 2012 | Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth

If the reggae legend's 2004 effort Black Magic was like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett's Duets albums --late-era, star-filled, and somewhat flat -- Rebirth is Jimmy Cliff's American Recordings (Johnny Cash) or Praise & Blame (Tom Jones), where a veteran artist goes raw and relights the fire with the help of a kindred spirit/knowing producer. For Cash and Jones, it was Rick Rubin and Ethan Johns respectively, while here it’s a bit of a surprise with Rancid frontman and Clash devotee Tim Armstrong delivering something well above the expected punky reggae party. "Guns of Brixton" is a natural, and Cliff's take on Rancid's "Ruby Soho" is a ska recreation to behold, but when the sometimes poptacular reggae singer dons a wild, Lee "Scratch" Perry persona for the carnival song "Bang" ("I came into this life, I came in with a bang/I'm living my life, I live it with a bang"), deep reggae fan Armstrong knows what to do, surrounding his man Upsetter-style with a whirling dervish of ska while adding a searing guitar solo as well. When the singer gets nostalgic on "Reggae Music" ("1962, Orange Street, Kingston Jamaica/I sang my song for Leslie Kong, he said…") the backing track is alive with that roots based magic and one drop power, yet Cliff's the one who seals the deal here and throughout the album, performing like a young buck while packing his years and wisdom into the songwriting. On that front, there's the Occupy Movement theme "World Upside Down" and the powerful single "One More", while the sweetness comes from the sentimental "Ship Is Sailing", a nautical metaphor so warm it could be slipped into a Jimmy Buffett set easily, even as the tinkling keyboards honor reggae legend Jackie Mittoo, thus nominating Armstrong's loving recreation as one of the most loved. It's a return to form and just what fans of Cliff's early work could ask for, but it's vital too, putting it on the man's top shelf, somewhere in the vicinity of The Harder They Come soundtrack and Wonderful World, Beautiful People. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 2013 | Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth(KCRW)

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World - Released March 29, 1988 | Columbia

By the '80s, Jimmy Cliff's music had evolved beyond the roots-reggae sound that made him a star. He changed his sound in the way that countless other musicians from the '70s did, namely, with pristine and polished production. No longer dealing in rough-around-the-edges songs of struggle and salvation riding on a tooting organ and insistent off-beat rhythm, Cliff began to sound more like the hybrid reggae/pop of Third World, Steel Pulse, and other groups whose careers he helped make possible. But the man sure does know how to put together infectious grooves. The opener, "We Are All One," recalls Stevie Wonder's work of the same period, especially "Part Time Lover." He fully dispenses with redemption themes of old on "Reggae Night" his biggest single in years, which has a happy-go-lucky dance floor beat that even the most rhythmically challenged could groove to. On "Piece of the Pie," a plea for the have-nots of the world, Cliff returns to familiar territory. He even interpolates lyrics from Bob Marley's "Them Belly Full" for good measure. The title track, a stirring mid-tempo concoction, shows off Cliff's angelic upper register. © TiVo
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Reggae - Released March 29, 2010 | Legend World Music OMP

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World - Released January 24, 1989 | Columbia

Reggae singer Jimmy Cliff was one of the first performers to take the music beyond his native Jamaica. His voice is higher and sweeter-sounding than Bob Marley's, yet like Marley, Cliff has that fervent, declarative style, righteous but never overbearing. SPECIAL is from 1982, and is a fine sampling of Cliff's brand of easy-going, pop-tinged reggae. "Treat the Youths Right" and "Roots Radical" are both groove-oriented and topical--the former is a plea for understanding for young people, the latter a declaration of pride in Jamaican roots and culture. "Keep on Dancing" and "Rub-a-Dub Partner" are bright, summery exhortations to good times and romance. This is not an album for those seeking the darkly intense "culture" style of reggae--for that, check out Burning Spear and Lee "Scratch" Perry. Cliff takes the reggae form and adds a chorus of soothing yet soulful chorus, flute, fuzzy guitars and electronic keyboards, making for a fine album for those who prefer their reggae light, bouncy, and instantly catchy. © TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 2004 | Hip-O Select

With an uncanny and catchy blend of reggae and pop, Jimmy Cliff (vocals) was able to not only successfully cross musical genres, but also become (perhaps best) known as the star of the cinematic adaptation of The Harder They Come (1973). This nine-cut anthology gathers a host of 45s and otherwise hard-to-find material. Although initially compiled in the mid-'70s, Goodbye Yesterday (2004) has remained elusive prior to being issued by Universal Music's limited-edition online boutique, Hip-O Select. The majority of the inclusions are from Cliff's collaborations with Leslie Kong, after first being roundly dismissed by both Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd. The mid-tempo "Waiting in Line" is one of two selections originally produced by Cat Stevens, the other being the optimistic and funky "Trapped," recalling Stevens' robust arrangements circa "Matthew and Son." Equally as soulful is the single version of "Waterfall," sporting an arguably dated R&B feel, complete with strings and brass accents. The congenial groove however would garner Cliff a spot representing Jamaica at the International Song Festival in Brazil. The set opens with the cheerful and practically bubblegum pop of "Goodbye Yesterday," a number that would not have sounded too far removed from the Ron Dante-led Archies. Another interesting dichotomy in styles exists between the politically informed songs "Synthetic World" and "I'm No Immigrant" when contrasting the sincerely pious "Bongo Man" or the humbling "Keep Your Eyes on the Sparrow." Although the unmistakable motif of freedom is prominent in each, the latter clocks in at over eight minutes and is presented as an extended musical sermon. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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World - Released March 14, 1989 | Columbia

It's a bit ironic that CLIFFHANGER earned Jimmy Cliff a Grammy Award in 1986. Stylistically, it is a far cry from the recordings that made him a star in the previous decade. The record shows off a smoother, more homogenized sound, with big guitars that spread like a wash or wail in the Van Halen style, chirping synthesizers, programmed drums, and other '80s touches. Lyrically, Cliff is less confrontational than in the past. With the exception of "Nuclear War," these songs generally avoid the social themes that one associates with classic reggae. Of course, Cliff still works within the reggae style, but here it sounds less like the rhythm of resistance than the rhythm of the dance floor, with a souped-up beat and "biddly bongs" and "rub-a-dubs" aplenty. Upbeat, fluffy numbers like "Reggae Street" and "American Sweet" both rhyme their titles with "reggae beat." On a few songs, the Kool and the Gang horn section adds to the jaunty party atmosphere. Besides the ballad, "Now and Forever," most of CLIFFHANGER consists of simple light reggae that goes down as easily as Coca Cola on a hot day. © TiVo
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World - Released April 20, 2004 | Universal Music Enterprises

Although Jamaica's Jimmy Cliff has had a long and continuing career on the international scene with his thoughtful and infectious brand of reggae-pop, his best work was undoubtedly done in the late '60s and early '70s, the period covered by this collection. Everything that is absolutely essential is here, from his breakthrough hit, 1969's "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" (inspired by Cliff's appearance at the 1968 International Song Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), his powerful protest song "Viet Nam," a pair of gems ("The Harder They Come," "Many Rivers to Cross") from the Harder They Come soundtrack, his stately nyahbinghi-based hymn "Bongo Man," and the first recorded version of Cat Stevens' "Wild World," actually produced by Stevens, who then went on to voice his own hit record of the song. Although there are more complete and comprehensive anthologies of Cliff's career available (the best is probably Hip-O's two-disc Anthology), this short, concise survey of his peak years gets it exactly right, without a single slack track. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Reggae - Released June 16, 2017 | Universal Music Enterprises

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Reggae - Released August 6, 2018 | Firefly

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Reggae - Released November 1, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

Reprise attempted to capitalize on the success of The Harder They Come and Cliff's own charting album Follow My Mind by pushing for a greatest hits collection. Thankfully, the singer had other ideas. Recorded at shows in Massachusetts and New York, and overseen by producer Andrew Log Oldham of Rolling Stones fame, the album does indeed include some of Cliff's greatest songs, but this was no golden oldies tour. Accompanied by a coterie of steller Jamaican musicians, the singer totally reinvents his back catalog in a way that has never been equaled by any artist before or since. Much of the credit for his success belongs to legendary guitarist Ernest Ranglin, whose superb performance drives the entire set. In simplest terms, Cliff resurrected these songs in rockers style, but that only hints at what's actually going on, and, besides, much of the set is too laid-back to really qualify as rockers. Regardless of the label, the phenomenal guitar work feeds through the songs, and, assisted by the supple basslines and solid rhythms, these tracks are all given new life. "Many Rivers to Cross," for example, originally was a powerful spiritual number, but here it becomes epic in delivery, as the melody swings from Ranglin's sublime flourishes to Sterling McLeod's keyboards, while Cliff himself let's loose with one of the strongest performances of his life. The singer's delivery is absolutely awe inspiring throughout, and on-stage he must have sent shivers down the audiences' spines. Even a piece of fluff like Cat Stevens' "Wild World" (a pop sop to stateside fans) discovers hidden depths, while a deep number like "Fountain of Life" throbs with an almost pensive quality, as Cliff muses over his less than righteous behavior. Every one of the ten songs here is a masterpiece of arrangement and performance. The best-of title suggests a performance of hits as they were; you don't get that, but you do get Cliff at his very best, regardless. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released June 3, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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World - Released August 5, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

Great title, but it took some chutzpah to slap it on this set considering that not a single one of Jimmy Cliff's hits actually appears within it. However, what you do get is an excellent selection of songs drawn from the artist's Columbia years. During his time there, between 1982-1988, Cliff released four stellar albums: Special, The Power & the Glory, the Grammy-winning Cliff Hanger, and Hanging Fire, with the latter three sets including contributions by Kool & the Gang. Roots fans obstreperously have greatest respect for Cliff's pre-roots-era albums, and give even shorter shrift to his '80s works. This compilation, however, is ample illustration of just what they're missing. The shimmering, infectious "We All Are One" is an undeniable unity classic, "Peace Officer" and "Roots Woman" are both superb cultural numbers, "Hitting with Music" is a "Harder They Come" for the dancehall age, and the breezy "Special" is feel-good reggae at its best, while "Reggae Nights" defies listeners not to groove to its infectious beats. "Hanging Fire" is just as propulsive, even as it thematically recalls "Sitting in Limbo." Back in the limbo that engulfed Cliff after the death of his producer, Leslie Kong, in 1971, the artist wrestled for several years over his next move, and in 1988 he was determined not to sit in limbo, hanging fire again. Thus the propulsive "Fire"'s title is ironic, as the artist readies himself for another musical leap. Jumping from Columbia was the first step, as Cliff embarked on a new musical journey that falls beyond this marvelous compilation's preserve. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1997 | Milan Music

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Reggae - Released June 10, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

The second of Jimmy Cliff's three albums for Reprise in the mid-'70s, Music Maker has on the surface all of the ingredients that went into Cliff's wonderful late-'60s work with producer Leslie Kong. The songs are melodic and wise while the production yields a bright pop sound with subtle reggae rhythms that are implied more than they are front and center, and floating over the top of everything is Cliff's distinctive, expressive tenor. But something intangible is missing, and while it is tempting to suggest that what's absent is Kong's input (Kong died in 1971, shortly after The Harder They Come was completed), the truth is that Cliff's songwriting sounds a bit labored here. Not that there isn't strong material on Music Maker. "Foolish Pride" is a lovely song, for instance, while "I've Been Dead for 400 Years" carries the kind of historical and political commitment that made Bob Marley an international icon. But nothing on Music Maker has the kind of easy universality that earlier Cliff songs like "Many Rivers to Cross" or "The Harder They Come" exhibited. Another problem with this album, at least in retrospect, is the heavy use of the Moog synthesizer, which gives the whole enterprise a kind of dated feel, while the Kong-produced material, by contrast, comes across as wonderfully timeless. Still, Cliff is too good a singer and writer to ever put out a completely bad album, and his obvious well-meaning sincerity comes close to making this one work. The best of Jimmy Cliff's work on Reprise has been collected on The EMI Years 1973-1975, and that may be the best way to sample this time period in the singer's career. [The British edition has entirely different artwork and was titled House of Exile.] © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 1972 | A&M

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. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

Perhaps more than any other Jamaican singer, Jimmy Cliff always had his sights set on the international market, and while he obviously works from a reggae base, his sound -- featuring full productions often cushioned with strings -- completely defines what has come to be known as reggae-pop. Ironically, given that it was his contemporary Bob Marley who broke through to become reggae's icon, Cliff may not have sounded, in the end, Jamaican enough. Follow My Mind originally came out in 1975 on the heels of the U.S. release of the Harder They Come soundtrack (which featured a quartet of Cliff's finest songs, including the magnificent "Many Rivers to Cross"), and rode Harder's wake onto the lower reaches of the pop charts. But Follow My Mind was a smooth, polished album, with few of the charming rough edges that characterized Cliff's previous work with producer Leslie Kong (who died in 1971, shortly after the Harder soundtrack was completed), and while it definitely had a Jamaican lilt, it sounded as much like Marvin Gaye as it did Marley, and ultimately it was the ragged, gospel-fueled songs of The Harder They Come that ended up sticking in the public's memory. Not that Follow My Mind lacked solid performances. "The News" was Cliff at his persecuted, paranoid best, while his version of Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" brought out the wounded regret inherent in the song even better than Marley did in his various versions. The set closer, "You're the Only One," was a great, classic love song, and "If I Follow My Mind" projected the confident hope that was Cliff's stock-in-trade, pulled along by a great melody and smooth as silk production. Cliff seemed poised to become a major star in the States, but it wasn't to happen, and in retrospect, as much as Follow My Mind was initially helped by the popularity of the Harder They Come soundtrack, it was also hurt by it, since nothing on the new album was as strong as the Kong-produced tracks. Smooth and melodic, Follow My Mind was hardly a creative failure, but by reaching so hard for an international pop sound, Cliff may have ironically overlooked the strong roots base that might have actually delivered the mass audience he deserved. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1970 | A&M

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World - Released April 12, 1988 | Columbia

Cliff has long since been eclipsed by other reggae stars, but this later release shows him effectively mixing his own quick-step version of the music with general pop trends. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Reggae - Released June 10, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

Jimmy Cliff's best work was done under the wing of legendary Jamaican producer Leslie Kong in the late '60s and early '70s, and following Kong's death of a heart attack in 1971, that certain intangible spark from the Kong years seemed to dim in Cliff's subsequent recordings. Although he was too gifted a performer and writer to make patently bad albums, Cliff seemed to drift off course beginning with Unlimited, the first of three albums he recorded for EMI (it was originally released in the U.S. by Reprise in 1973), and the first done without Kong's involvement. The tracks on Unlimited followed roughly the same successful template as before -- melodic pop tunes over solid Jamaican rhythms, sweetened occasionally with tasteful string arrangements -- but the results seemed somehow only partially realized. Oh, there were striking songs on Unlimited, of course, including the lovely opener, "Under the Sun, Moon and Stars," the stirring, wise, and historically accurate "Oh Jamaica," and the bright, poppy "On My Life," but several tracks seemed oddly lifeless and uninspired, for all of Cliff's obvious commitment and passion. Jimmy Cliff at half-speed is still a charismatic pop artist, and Unlimited is certainly worth a listen, but don't expect the same magic of his earlier years. © Steve Leggett /TiVo