Jimmy Cliff

The EMI Years 1973-1975

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Jimmy Cliff's strongest work was done under the wing of legendary Jamaican producer Leslie Kong in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period that saw the pair craft such soulful pop-reggae classics as "Wonderful World, Beautiful People," "You Can Get It if You Really Want," "Vietnam," and the gorgeous "Many Rivers to Cross." Work on the soundtrack and movie The Harder They Come had just been completed when Kong died of a heart attack in 1971, and with him went a certain intangible spark in Cliff's recordings; Although he was too gifted a performer and writer to make patently bad albums, Cliff hasn't delivered anything since as brilliant as his early efforts with Kong. This compilation, drawn from his three albums with EMI, Unlimited (1973), House of Exile (1974), and Brave Warrior (1975), represents Cliff's first extended phase without Kong's guidance, and while the tracks here follow roughly the same template as before -- melodic, wise pop tunes over solid rhythms, sweetened with tasteful string arrangements -- the results seem only partially realized. The best tracks here ( "On My Life," the bitter "I've Been Dead 400 Years," "Every Tub," the beautifully sad "Million Teardrops") all exhibit a kind of weary exhaustion, and whatever optimism they project seems strangely desperate. Cliff at half-speed is still a charismatic pop artist, and this compilation certainly is worth a listen, but don't expect the magic of his earlier years.

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