Picks and Pans Review: Special
Frustratingly, Jimmy Cliff has always made albums with some good songs on them but never a totally satisfying whole. Now at last he has produced a rounded, complete LP. From the title cut, with its hypercharged organ curtain raiser, to the closing ballad, "Where There Is Love", he has achieved a synthesis of roots reggae and buoyant pop-rock without resorting to commercial slick-ness. There are some artistic failings: overproduction of the otherwise gorgeous. Marley-esque "Rock Children" (written by Cliff's guitarist, Radcliffe Dougie Bryan) and Cliff's own "Treat the Youths Right" (inspired by England's 1981 Brixton riots). But even Rolling Stones associate producer Chris Kimsey's excessive inventiveness cannot quite swamp Cliff and his hard-driving nine-"mon" Jamaican rhythm band. For the most part, Cliff's earnest protest lyrics are simple and eloquent (though sometimes lazy, too, with rhymes like "Some say I'm mad/That's when I'm glad/Ever so glad/Because I am no fad"). Still, any damage is small. This is the big, bright, utterly addictive album Cliff fans always knew he could make, an album that could nudge reggae from purely cult status to mass-audience music.