Jimmy Cliff

Roots Radical

Song Review by

Jimmy Cliff punches his clenched fist in the air and declares, "I'm a radical, I'm a roots radical," on this pusillanimous single taken from the singer's Special album.

Producer Chris Kimsey gives the song, and the whole album, a huge sound, the kind he had also created the previous year for the Rolling Stones' Emotional Rescue. Cliff twists expertly sift genres together, which his backing band bakes into a delicious crossover confection. Mikey "Boo" Richards and Bertram "Ranchie" McLean roll out the seething rhythm and guitarists Earl "Chinna" Smith and Radcliff "Dougie" Bryan ladle on the rich riffs and sumptuous solos while keyboardists Ansel Collins and Phil Ramocan decorate the cake with lush passages and ice it with a variety of effects that will set mouths watering in Kingston and urban centers farther north.

But it's Cliff's performance that's the cherry on top, his voice ringing with conviction, his emotional shading phenomenal, and when he sings, "I'm a radical, I'm a true born Jamaican," you can almost hear his voice swell with pride. Fabulous.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Special 1982 CBS Records 4:23
Rhythm Come Forward, Vol. 3 1993
Various Artists
Columbia 4:21
Gold 1994 TriStar Music 4:23
No Image 1996 Sony Music Distribution 4:22
Simply the Best 2000 Sony Music Distribution 4:22
We All Are One: The Best of Jimmy Cliff 2002 BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
Sunshine in the Music 2003 Columbia 4:29
No Image 2004 Sony Music Distribution
Special/The Power And The Glory/Cliffhanger 2011 Columbia 4:24
blue highlight denotes editor's pick