Jimmy Cliff

The Collection

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The Collection is yet another disc dedicated to Jimmy Cliff's Columbia years, 1982-1988, one of a slew of compilations built around the singer's sojourn at the label. For comparison, check out We All Are One: The Best of Jimmy Cliff, Super Hits, and Simply the Best just for starters, for over the years Columbia/Sony have milked this material for all it's worth. Luckily for them (and fans), it's worth quite a bit, as Cliff unleashed four extremely strong albums during his six years at the label, including the Grammy Award-winning Cliff Hanger. The compilation opener (and smash hit), "I Can See Clearly Now," is the sole exception, as it dates from a later period, 1993. That number, of course, was a cover of an old Johnny Nash number. In contrast, "We All Are One" was composed by funk heroes Kool & the Gang, a subtle but compulsive club/dance number, while the dance-friendly monster "Reggae Night" came courtesy of the Gang's Khalis Bayyan and LaToya Jackson -- reggae for the urban club crowds. Down in Jamaica, they prefer a more sensual rhythm, like that which accompanies "Rub-A-Dub Partner," while "Roots Woman" features the bright bouncy reggae also popular in the dancehalls. Both these songs were composed by guitarist/bassist Bertram "Ranchie" McLean, a member of Cliff's superb backing band, Oneness. The rest of the set belongs to Cliff's own compositions, giving equal weight to cultural numbers ("Treat the Youths Right" and "Peace Officer"), romance-lit tracks ("Love Me Love Me" and "Special"), and more personal concerns ("Hanging Fire"). The arrangements are equally varied, running the gamut from the deep roots of "Peace Officer," across party reggae, and into the dancehalls and discos. The singles may not have hit, but the albums proved popular, and with good reason. Cliff's songwriting is top-notch throughout, his band knocks 'em dead, and the arrangements were inspired -- which is why no matter which Columbia roundup you plump for, you'll always pick a winner.

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