Monday, March 4, 2013

119 The Harder they come- like a Reggae best of

Album: The Harder they Come
Artist: Jimmy Cliff
Genre: Reggae
Year: 1972


  1. You Can Get It If You Really Want
  2. Draw Your Brakes
  3. Rivers of Babylon
  4. Many Rivers to Cross
  5. Sweet and Dandy
  6. The Harder They Come
  7. Johnny Too Bad
  8. 007 (Shanty Town)
  9. Pressure Drop
  10. Sitting in Limbo
  11. You Can Get It If You Really Want
  12. The Harder They Come

Reggae fans don't like this list. To be honest there are lots of people who don't appreciate it much but Reggae fans are definitely up there in the list of "Top 500 groups dissatisfied with the Top 500 list." There's no doubt reggae is a genre that's not well represented. I've got a reggae label and I've only had cause to use it five times in the countdown so far (four of them for Bob Marley albums),  and there's not a huge amount more to come. Personally I'm not that upset because what reggae I've heard hasn't moved me at all but if the purpose of listening to these albums is to expand my musical horizons the lack of Jamaican music isn't helping much. There's more Beatles on this list than reggae and I'm not having my horizons expanded by listening to music that I've heard regularly since I was a teenager. The good news is that The Harder They Come serves as a reggae compilation of sorts and an introduction to the genre.

In 1972 a Jamaican TV commercial director decided to make his debut feature film, a crime drama called The Harder They Come which featured a reggae singer who becomes a Marijuana dealer and finally a bloody corpse full of bullet holes on a beach. The role of lead was given to Reggae singer Jimmy Cliff who had a lot of experience as a singer, quite a bit of experience with marijuana usage and not much of a history of death on a beach but could fake it well enough to make the movie. In order to provide a musical moment for the film, Cliff entered the studio and recorded a new song to make up the title track.  The rest of the soundtrack album was filled by previous Cliff hits (including the gorgeous Many Rivers to Cross) and a collection of the film-maker's favourite reggae songs by greats like Desmond Decker and The Maytals.

When the album was released it served as a primer for reggae and the album was a much bigger success than the movie that created it. The Harder They Come was a lot of people's introduction to a genre and if it wasn't their first reggae album it was the first one that didn't have a Bob Marley track on it somewhere.

Personally I enjoyed hearing more varied reggae than Marley reggae which I've heard a lot so far. It didn't really convert me to the genre and wasn't something I'd choose to listen to often. It's still a musical style that doesn't affect me at all and leaves me cold.

The exception of course is Many Rivers To Cross which is magnificent. It's a soaring ballad which is great when Cliff does and has been covered by a huge range of artists, most of whom have buggered it up completely. But even done badly it's still a great song, more soul than reggae, but great none the less.

If your someone who laments the lack of rasta on this list this is probably not going to sate your irritation but for those of you who wanted to hear a wider variety of reggae it's a good introduction. And even if you decide you don't like the genre there's a soul classic on there for you to appreciate as well.

Highlight: Many Rivers to Cross
Lowlight: Pressure Drop

Influenced by: Ganga and Rasta
Influenced: Reggae

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this CD reissue of the classic Bob Marley soundtrack is a must-have for Reggae fans and the place to start for any music-lovers who have yet to become acquainted with Jamaican music"

-See how entrenched Marley is with Reggae? He's not on this album once but someone is giving him credit for the whole thing.

So does this make you want to hear more reggae or a lot less? Let me know below.

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