Follow My Mind

Jimmy Cliff

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Follow My Mind Review

by Steve Leggett

Perhaps more than any other Jamaican singer, Jimmy Cliff always had his sights set on the international market, and while he obviously works from a reggae base, his sound -- featuring full productions often cushioned with strings -- completely defines what has come to be known as reggae-pop. Ironically, given that it was his contemporary Bob Marley who broke through to become reggae's icon, Cliff may not have sounded, in the end, Jamaican enough. Follow My Mind originally came out in 1975 on the heels of the U.S. release of the Harder They Come soundtrack (which featured a quartet of Cliff's finest songs, including the magnificent "Many Rivers to Cross"), and rode Harder's wake onto the lower reaches of the pop charts. But Follow My Mind was a smooth, polished album, with few of the charming rough edges that characterized Cliff's previous work with producer Leslie Kong (who died in 1971, shortly after the Harder soundtrack was completed), and while it definitely had a Jamaican lilt, it sounded as much like Marvin Gaye as it did Marley, and ultimately it was the ragged, gospel-fueled songs of The Harder They Come that ended up sticking in the public's memory. Not that Follow My Mind lacked solid performances. "The News" was Cliff at his persecuted, paranoid best, while his version of Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" brought out the wounded regret inherent in the song even better than Marley did in his various versions. The set closer, "You're the Only One," was a great, classic love song, and "If I Follow My Mind" projected the confident hope that was Cliff's stock-in-trade, pulled along by a great melody and smooth as silk production. Cliff seemed poised to become a major star in the States, but it wasn't to happen, and in retrospect, as much as Follow My Mind was initially helped by the popularity of the Harder They Come soundtrack, it was also hurt by it, since nothing on the new album was as strong as the Kong-produced tracks. Smooth and melodic, Follow My Mind was hardly a creative failure, but by reaching so hard for an international pop sound, Cliff may have ironically overlooked the strong roots base that might have actually delivered the mass audience he deserved.

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