Jimmy Cliff


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Of all the members of Leslie Kong's hitmaking stable, it was Desmond Dekker's career which suffered the most grievously in the wake of his life-long producer's untimely death in 1971. Jimmy Cliff, too, was initially left "Sitting in Limbo," just "Hanging Fire" in confusion over what to do and where to go next. With time, the Struggling Man would resurrect his career, and although he never again reached the magnificent heights he scaled with Kong, he did carve a new niche for himself in the reggae-lite/pop crossover world. Gold cavalierly ignores Cliff's work with Kong, as well as the difficult years that followed, concentrating exclusively on his '80s output. In a way this makes sense: throw in the earlier hits, and all these later numbers pale in comparison, toss in the material from the post-Kong '70s, and these party tunes sound trite. Take them on their own terms, though, and their perky brightness shines strong. The infectious "Reggae Night" is flawless club fodder, the bouncy "We Are All One" the perfect unity anthem for the age, "Hanging Fire," with its edgy guitar and poignant lyrics, is a stellar reggae/rock hybrid, but with a sublime lightness of touch, while "Hot Shot" is reggae-funk fusion aimed straight at urban dancefloors. "Roots Radical" is nowhere near as militant as Cliff's early-'70s work, but still has a tough roots reggae feel, "Treat the Youths Right" boasts a surprisingly hip ragga flavor, while the gorgeous "Now and Forever," a stadium sized ballad with soaring rock guitar and a sound that could only set crowds swaying in its wake, also features an emotive performance to knock one's socks off. Of course, all this is far removed from the Cliff who starred in The Harder They Come, but there again that Cliff was equally far removed from the man who scored big with the likes of 1968's "Waterfall" and his break-out international hit "Wonderful World, Beautiful People." Who knows what direction Kong would have sent him down if he had lived, but in the end, Cliff still did his mentor proud, continuing to entertain people around the world, with music even the harshest critic had to appreciate.

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