Tag Archives: Jimmy Cliff

Reggae Grammy nominees announced

grammyIn the past weeks a list of entries to the Grammy Award for best reggae album has circulated. The list contained a total of 53 entries and had its fair bit of highs and lows. Yesterday the actual nominees were announced and unfortunately only one of five nominees is a real gem.

The total list of 53 entries contained several great albums, for example Busy Signal’s Reggae Music Again, Courtney John’s From Letters To Words, I Octane’s Crying to the Nation, Konshens’ Mental Maintenance, Singing Melody’s They Call Me Mr. Melody and Jimmy Cliff’s Rebirth. The only one that made to the final round was Rebirth.

But there is good news. Rebirth is by far the strongest nominee. It’s accompanied by The Original Wailers’ Miracle, Sean Paul’s Tomahawk Technique, Sly & Robbie & The Ram Masters’ New Legend and Toots Hibbert’s Unplugged At Strawberry Hill.

Rebirth is Jimmy Cliff’s strongest album since his heydays in the 60’s and 70’s and if there’s any justice in the world and the jury knows anything about reggae music; it will be a landslide victory for Jimmy Cliff.

The winners of the 55th Grammy Award will be presented on February 10, 2013.

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Jimmy Cliff travels back to the 60’s in fine style

Jamaican singer, musician and actor Jimmy Cliff is back with his first full-length album in seven years. 

This time has traveled back to a time when Rasta was still almost unheard of and when reggae was characterized as novelty music. A time when proper bass lines reigned without being wobbly or distorted and when the organ was put in the front row and the guitars went chaga-chaga-chaga.

Rebirth is produced by U.S. punk rocker Tim Armstrong from Rancid, who has previously worked with reggae artists such as Buju Banton. He has given the original riddims on the album a punk rock feeling with x amount of energy and call and response choruses.

Jimmy Cliff’s beautiful voice is lighter compared to his heydays in the 60’s and 70’s, but it still has oomph and liveliness. His protest calls for unity and universal love sounds fresh, and it’s amazing that he has the vigor needed to handle the vivacious backing.

Ska and upbeat boss reggae dominate the 13 tracks, which are crafted from bass, drums, organ, percussion, guitar and horns. The stomping Outsider is however Northern Soul in its finest form.

Jimmy Cliff has over the years probably tried every genre there is, but this time he is back where he once started. And it’s a good thing.

Rebirth is currently available on CD and digital download. A limited vinyl edition LP drops on August 13.


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Jimmy Cliff is a rootless wandering spirit

During the past 50 years or so reggae has had a tremendous impact on the world music scene. House is heavily influenced by dub and techniques such as versioning – or remixing as it is called in other genres – is widely used on the global music scene.

But reggae is of course also Bob Marley, and the genre is more or less synonymous with his music and tunes such as No Woman No Cry, Redemption Song and Three Little Birds.

In the shadow of Bob Marley several other artists and groups struggled to get their fair share of the global market. One that almost made it as far as Bob Marley is Jimmy Cliff. But due to a number of reasons he didn’t reach the same huge amount of followers.

These reasons – and a lot of other interesting facts and stories – are told in David Katz’ Jimmy Cliff: An unauthorised biography on Signal Books, and part of the Caribbean Lives series.

David Katz is the author of several other articles and books covering reggae, among them People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee “Scratch” Perry and the ultra-heavy Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae.

Being an unauthorised biography means that the book doesn’t rely on recent interviews with Jimmy Cliff. According to an interview with the author Jimmy Cliff was approached, but “didn’t respond this time around”. However, David Katz has met Jimmy Cliff on previous occasions and used that material for this book. He has also interviewed a number of other musicians and people that have worked with Jimmy Cliff over the years.

The picture painted of him is a loving one. Jimmy Cliff is a highly creative, hardworking musician that doesn’t think twice about trying genres other than reggae. He has also struggled to reach his current position on the music scene.

He has been criticized for his music and for visiting South Africa during Apartheid. It is also clear that Jimmy Cliff is a spiritual individual, but has had an eclectic history having been a Muslim, a Christian and somewhat of a Rastafarian. His firm beliefs may have been hard to categorize in one religion.

Jimmy Cliff is also rootless. Both when it comes to music and to housing.

He travelled early to the U.S. and to the UK trying his hands on a variety of genres. From the 70’s and onwards his travelling increased and his touring took him around the world. His home has been in Jamaica, Brazil, UK and France. And probably several other places as well.

Music wise he has always been curious, which has made his albums non-cohesive. Usually one side with pop-oriented material and one side leaning towards reggae. Even though he has made roots reggae, Jimmy Cliff is not always viewed as a reggae artist, due to his passion to explore musical boundaries.

David Katz has given life to a complex individual and written a well-researched and easily readable portrait of one of the giants in the world of music.


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Jimmy Cliff with an attitude

Award-winning musician/actor/singer/songwriter and producer Jimmy Cliff is back with a fresh and sparkling attitude.

His new EP Sacred Fire – a pre-curser to an album due in April next year – is produced by Tim Armstrong, punk rocker and front man in Rancid.

Tim Armstrong is by no means a stranger to reggae. He was one of the driving forces behind Hellcat Records and has also collaborated with Buju Banton and members of The Specials.

But Jimmy Cliff’s Sacred Fire is neither conscious dancehall nor British ska. This is reggae heavily influenced by the sounds that came from Jamaican label Beverly’s run by late producer Leslie Kong, for whom Jimmy Cliff recorded in the beginning of his nearly 50 year long career.

Sacred Fire features one original, three covers and one dub version. Jimmy Cliff’s versions of punk anthems Guns of Brixton and Ruby Soho excel the original versions by The Clash and Rancid respectively.

The riddims and the backing are uncompromising and injected with loads of attitude. Jimmy Cliff singing is surprisingly low-key and peaceful, but with great sensibility and affection.

It’s not known if Tim Armstrong handles production duties on the full-length album as well, but I certainly hope so. Because this is a delicious teaser.

Sacred Fire is available as CD, digital download and a limited edition 12”, which includes the bonus cut World Upside Down.


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Nyutgåva av The Harder They Come

I morgon onsdag släpps nyutgåvan av reggaerullarnas reggaerulle – The Harder They Come med sångaren Jimmy Cliff i huvudrollen.

The Harder They Come kom 1972 och blev startskottet för reggaen på den större internationella arenan. Filmen är en gangsterhistoria och kretsar kring den misslyckade Ivanho Martin, en karaktär som bygger på en verklig förlaga som stred mot etablissemanget.

Filmen blev i sig ingen kassasuccé, men det blev däremot det fantastiska soundtracket. Många har säkert hört klassiker som You Can Get It if You Really Want med Jimmy Cliff och Rivers of Babylon med The Melodians. Mina personliga favoriter är dock Draw Your Brakes med Scotty, Johnny Too Bad med The Slickers (aka The Pioneers) och ösiga Sweet and Dandy med The Maytals.

Den nya utgåvan innehåller svensk text och kommer att finnas hos välsorterade film- och skivbutiker.

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