Jimmy Cliff

The Harder They Come [Original Soundtrack]

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In 1973, when the movie The Harder They Come was released, reggae was not on the radar screen of American pop culture. The soundtrack went a ways toward changing that situation. It is a collection of consistently excellent early reggae songs by artists who went on to thrive with reggae's increased popularity, and others for whom this is the most well-known vehicle. Jimmy Cliff is both the star of the movie and the headliner on the soundtrack. He contributes three excellent songs: the hymnal "Many Rivers to Cross," "You Can Get It If You Really Want," and "The Harder They Come" (the latter two are repeated at the end of the album, but you probably wanted to hear them again anyway). Interestingly, the better production values of his songs actually seems to detract from them when compared to the rougher, but less sanitized, mixes of the other tracks. All the songs on this collection are excellent, but some truly stand out. Toots & the Maytals deliver two high-energy songs with "Sweet and Dandy" and "Pressure Drop" (covered by the Clash among others). Scotty develops a mellow, loping groove on "Stop That Train" (not the same as the Wailers' song by the same name) and the Slickers prove on "Johnny Too Bad" that you don't have to spout profanity or graphic violence to convey danger. The Harder They Come is strongly recommended both for the casual listener interested in getting a sense of reggae music and the more serious enthusiast. Collections don't come much better than this.

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