Monday 22 January 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - C: Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come

Time for another roll of fate.
The letter C provides a number somewhere in the middle of the collection, and the result is ... Cliff!
(But not the one you may think (and happily not for me either)).

Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come

Basically a Reggae starter kit.
Think you don't like Reggae?  have a listen to this album - not a duff track on it and a perfect soundtrack for late summer evenings (and I'm writing this in January, so it works in the cold and damp too).
(A second recommendation for all things Reggae is the compilation Young, Gifted And Black - Volume 1 is better than Volume 2, but both deserve a place in any collection)

Compiled and sold as the soundtrack to Jimmy Cliff's movie of the same name, this compilation takes the purposefully recorded title track, adds three more Jimmy Cliff tracks, and then bulks out the album with a selection of landmark records/producer favourites from 1967 to 1972.

What you get is:
  1. "You Can Get It If You Really Want" - Jimmy Cliff
  2. "Draw Your Brakes" - Scotty
  3. "Rivers of Babylon" - The Melodians
  4. "Many Rivers to Cross" - Jimmy Cliff
  5. "Sweet and Dandy" - The Maytals
  6. "The Harder They Come" - Jimmy Cliff
  7. "Johnny Too Bad" - The Slickers
  8. "007 (Shanty Town)" - Desmond Dekker
  9. "Pressure Drop" - The Maytals
  10. "Sitting in Limbo" - Jimmy Cliff
  11. "You Can Get It If You Really Want" - Jimmy Cliff
  12. "The Harder They Come" - Jimmy Cliff
(and no, that it is a transcription error - you do have 2 versions of "You Can Get It If You Really Want" - the second version is more an instrumental with only the vocals for the chorus)

It is often stated that the film and the soundtrack introduced the world to Reggae, and listening to these tracks you can see why it succeeded.

For even more Reggae greats, the 2 Disc expanded version offers 18 more tracks including more from Jimmy Cliff, The Maytals and Desmond Dekker, plus Eric Donaldson, Johnny Nash and Dave & Ansel Collins.
  1. "Israelites" - Desmond Dekker and The Aces
  2. "My Conversation" - The Uniques
  3. "Do the Reggay" - The Maytals
  4. "Viet Nam" - Jimmy Cliff
  5. "I Can See Clearly Now" - Johnny Nash
  6. "Reggae Hit the Town" - The Ethiopians
  7. "Double Barrel" - Dave and Ansel Collins
  8. "It Mek" - Desmond Dekker and The Aces
  9. "Sweet Sensation" - The Melodians
  10. "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah" - Jimmy Cliff
  11. "Cherry Oh Baby" - Eric Donaldson
  12. "Monkey Spanner" - Dave and Ansel Collins
  13. "54-46 (That's My Number)" - The Maytals
  14. "It's My Delight" - The Melodians
  15. "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" - Jimmy Cliff
  16. "Pomp and Pride" - The Maytals
  17. "Guava Jelly" - Johnny Nash
  18. "The Bigger They Come the Harder They Fall" - Jimmy Cliff

(Serious redux warning!)
The film is far from a "Rags To Riches" tale, although it starts that way with main character Ivanhoe Martin (Jimmy Cliff) leaving his family in rural Jamaica to try his luck in Kingston.
On arrival, all his possessions are stolen.  Seeking work, he takes any job he can find, before trying his luck in the singing business.  He does end up making a record, but has no success.
His next job is in Kingstons thriving underground drug trade, delivering drugs around the city, and then being hunted by the police.  He descends deeper into the criminal world, stealing anything he can get his hands on, and most importantly avoiding the police at all costs.  As a result, he becomes something of a folk hero - it is this status that drives his record to success.
With the police closing in, he attempts to escape the island but fails to get aboard a boat bound for Cuba and is washed ashore.
The movie ends with Ivanhoe awaking to the sound of a police ambush, there is a stand-off, and a gunfight and Ivanhoe is no more.

There aren't too many films I watch repeatedly, but this is one of them - The Harder They Come is a bit of a "formulaic blaxploitation" movie (with a bit of Wild West thrown in for good measure), but pulls no punches and is not afraid to show the darker side of Jamaica.
There is a strange juxtaposition of the gritty, realism and darkness of the film against the uplifting joyousness of the soundtrack.

The extended version of the soundtrack closes with this more soulful take of the title track.  It was recorded at Muscle Shoals Studio in 1971, and originally released as the B Side of "Sitting In Limbo"

Jimmy Cliff - The Bigger The Come The Harder They Fall

The Harder They Come - Film Trailer


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks - A and C have been lucky.
      Let see what the next 23 posts bring
      (hopefully stuff of comparable quality, but ...)

  2. Great (random) selection. A very strong album that.