Jimmy cliff announced reggae to the world stage off the back of 1972’s The Harder They Come film. Now he’s returned forty years later to complete his message of unity with a reggae and ska LP that stops looking for progressive musical detail and focuses on huge songs, wrapped up in love and riddled with universal messages for the 21st Century’s problems. Opener ‘Bang’ could easily be the work of Jerry Dammers such is the skank on the wah wah guitar. ‘World Upside Down’ addresses the world’s problems square on, but seduces the agenda with Cliff ’s sweeter than sweet voice that belies his sixty-four years on Earth.
He pays respects to old friends The Clash with ‘Guns Of Brixton’, inspired by the youth riots of 2011, whilst ‘Children’s Bread’ is a jaunty and sunny slice of reggae with a dark message for all the fat cats keeping those less fortunate locked in poverty. In more upbeat territory we hear the kinetic singer nail a soul funk voyage on ‘Outsider’ – his own anthem dedicated to the way he’s lived his life in Jamaican music. But the LP highlight is arguably ‘One More’, which gets two versions, and deservedly so. ‘One More’ is the kind of urgent, charged and unforgettable ska anthem that first put his nation on the musical map under Cliff ’s patronage.
‘Rebirth’ is completely captivating. It’s not a re-release, it’s not an old man going through the motions – it’s the sound of a talented ball of energy going straight back to his roots, and to his culture, to produce yet more unstoppable work.
Words by MATTHEW BENNETT