Jimmy Cliff is one of the legends of reggae. Along with Desmond Decker and Bob Marley, he was one of the artists who brought the genre to these shores back in the seventies - in Cliff's case in 1972, with the seminal film The Harder They Come. The accompanying album included classics in the form of the title track, You Can Get it If You Really Want, Many Rivers To Cross and Sitting In Limbo. It also helped to promote artists such as The Slickers and The Melodians. Keith Richards and Paul Simenon, along with many others, were influenced by the album.
Forty years later and Jimmy Cliff is back. He has released an album that takes the vibe of his earlier work and updates it for the twenty first century. Produced by Tim Armstrong, who also plays guitar on the record, Rebirth has that strong, roots feel that so defined seventies reggae. The mood is upbeat and danceable, with some songs containing lyrics of social commentary that put me in mind of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On. Tunes such as World Upside Down and Children's Bread are cases in point. "They took the children's bread", give it to the dogs, making so many peoples' lives so hard".
The single One More will get you on your feet, however hard you try to resist. Reggae Music looks back to 1962 and beyond and Outsider is a celebration of the music and attitude that defines the genre we love in this blog. And the version of The Clash's Guns Of Brixton is quite simply one of the most original and inspired covers I have ever heard.
It all goes round doesn't it, music. Jimmy Cliff inspires a teenage Paul Simenon to pick up the bass guitar and then, all these years later, Simenon's classic tune from London Calling inspires Cliff to produce this cover. Wonderful.
The album is out now and is available at all good record stores and the usual online places. You can, for a time, hear a streamed version at Rdio. This is the Facebook page.
Jimmy Cliff is one of the greats. This album confirms it.