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The soundtrack to what is probably Jamaica's greatest contribution to the film industry. A big statement I know though not one that should draw anything away from the power of the music on this album. Jimmy Cliff is to the fore, as he is in the film as Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin. His vocals on the excellent title track; the haunting Sitting in Limbo and the punchy You Can Get It If You Really Want are classic slices of Island label production. Familiar cuts from the mighty Desmond Dekker (007 Shanty Town) and the Melodians (Rivers of Babylon) always sound fresh and these are more than matched by Scotty's Draw Your Brakes or The Maytals' Sweet and Dandy. Universal have recently given this album the two-disc Deluxe treatment but the single disc at the mid-price point is a fine primer of early seventies reggae that can be further explored through the back catalogue of the artists featured here. In conclusion an essential purchase.
There are not that many film soundtracks that are made into CDs and are played and treasured as an album in their own right. People usually buy them because they liked the film, find that half the tracks are not so good without said film, and the CD inevitably gravitates towards the dusty, never played, soon-to-be-in-a-boot sale section of the CD rack. There are a few exceptions to the rule. Easy Rider comes to mind for those of you who are greying, balding or drooping. Pulp Fiction is probably a better example for those who still have all their own teeth. Being a member of the former I can also cite this album, now digitally re-mastered, The Harder They Come. It is the soundtrack of the 1973 film of the same name made by Perry Henzel. By the way, if you dont like Reggae read no further. The film was the story of a Kingston shantytown low-life gangster (played by Jimmy Cliff) and his Robin Hood style journey from disaster to tragedy in the Jamaican slums. It was, and is, a brilliantly engaging film to which the Brazilian film City of God owes not a little of its style and atmosphere. The soundtrack, as well as complimenting the atmosphere of the film, in its compilation nicely represents that form of pre-Marley reggae known as Rock-Steady. Together with Ska, Rock-Steady came directly from Calypso and retained some of its jauntiness while still being able to be sometimes dark and mournful. Half the tracks on the CD are performed by Jimmy Cliff himself, as is the first: *1-You Can Get It If You Really Want* Well known track that hit the mainstream charts. Up tempo reggae. *2-Draw Your Brakes* Sung by Scotty, a popular Jamaican DJ in the 60s and 70s. Hes a legend in Jamaica, who died in 2003. This is probably his most famous song and could make your granny dance. *3-By The Rivers Of Babylon* The original rastafarian anthem by the Melodians. Always makes me cry and Im as white as tripe! Boney M, eat your hearts out! *4-Many Rivers To Cross* Jimmy Cliff again. Slow tear jerking lament about the weary trudge through life. Start looking for that half bottle of whisky! *5-Sweet And Dandy* Performed by Toots and the Maytals who were one of the groups who bridged the gap between Rock-Steady and modern reggae. You can dry your eyes, Ive never heard a Maytals track that hasnt uplifted me. If you like this, check out a CD called Funky Kingston. *6-Harder They Come* Jimmy Cliff singing the title track. Basic bread and butter reggae. *7-Johnny Too Bad* Performed by the Slickers another legendary combo in 70s Jamaica. Calypso influenced Reggae song about a tragedy waiting to happen called Johnny. Good sing-along stuff. *8-007 (Shanty Town)* Sung by Desmond Dekker of Israelites fame. Better in my humble opinion. What is this obsession the Jamaicans have got with 007? *9-Pressure Drop* Toots and the Maytals again. Probably the song theyre best known for. *10-Sitting in Limbo* Jimmy Cliff singing the most commercial song on the CD. Its ok but nothing to write home about. Every CD has to have one. *11-You Can Get It If You Really Want* *12-Harder They Come* These are my main complaint with this album. They arent the same as the previous versions, but almost. The only difference is that they include protracted instrumentals. As I said, this a soundtrack CD which is able to stand alone as an album. It could be a Reggae history-of CD as most of the tracks are classics in their own right. The re-mastering is inaudible to my ears but Ill take their word for it. I heartily recommend it if you like Reggae and I defy you not to dance around the kitchen when you put it on! Available at a variety of prices these days but shouldnt be more than a fiver really. There is also a deluxe 2 CD set around., but thats not the original soundtrack and is for another review.
First off, its good to actually state that only about a third of the tracks on the album are by Jimmy Cliff. The album is generally credited to him because he starred in the film of the same name. However, saying that, this has to be one of the most coherant sound track albums I have ever heard, both due to the quality of the music and through the themes of life in the Kingston Ghettos. The tunes by Cliff stand out by the sheer strength and determination in his voice as he sings "You can get it if you really want" ."Many rivers to cross" must be one of the most strangely uplifting but depressing songs you could ever hear. Some of the tunes you maybe familiar with, such as Jimmys, or particularly the Melodians "Rivers Of Babylon" which of course was violated horribly by Boney M a few ears later. The album is pretty much a who's who of the world of reggae in 1972, featuring stars such as Toots and the Maytals, and the fantastic Desmond Dekker. Buy it because its a great collection of music, and if you are new to reggae it is a good introduction to some of the principle artists involved.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 You Can Get It If You Really Want
2 Draw Your Brakes - Scotty
3 Rivers Of Babylon - The Melodians
4 Many Rivers To Cross
5 Sweet & Dandy - Toots & The Maytals
6 The Harder They Come
7 Johnny Too Bad - The Slickers
8 007 (Shanty Town) - Desmond Dekker
9 Pressure Drop - Toots & The Maytals
10 Sitting In Limbo
11 You Can Get It If You Really Want
12 The Harder They Come