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The Harder They Come (Island, 1972)

I figured it was about time I reviewed this classic soundtrack,  as it is one of the most legendary reggae albums of all time.  While Jimmy Cliff is the star of both the movie and the soundtrack, this is not a Jimmy Cliff album; it in fact features other reggae luminaries such as The Maytals, The Melodians, and Desmond Dekker.  Recorded in 1972, The Harder They Come has an early reggae/rock steady/ska sound that is a bit faster than the later '70s roots renaissance.  While this may not be everyone's favorite style, there's little denying the classic level of material here from start to finish: "Pressure Drop" is one of the all-time great (and best-known) ska songs ("Sweet and Dandy" ain't bad either), "Rivers of Babylon" is a revered, gorgeous Rasta hymn, "Johnny Too Bad" is the cautionary rude boy tale to end all, and "007 (Shanty Town)" is a gritty ska classic that has been included on innumerable reggae compilations.  Even the most casual reggae listener should know these songs -- if you don't, get tot know them!  Even if you don't know the originals, they have been covered and sampled by everyone and their mother, so you really have no excuse.  Of course, however, as I said, the real star of The Harder They Come is Cliff.  Four of his all-time best and best-known songs solidify the timelessness of this set: "Sitting in Limbo," the inspirational "You Can Get It If You Really Want," the soul-stirring ballad "Many Rivers to Cross" (although it's debatable as to how "reggae" it is), and the title track, which was a hit in the context of the film (and if you haven't seen the movie, check it out; it holds up quite well as a fascinating, tragic tale).  Needless to say, The Harder They Come is practically beyond reproach (though "Draw Your Brakes" isn't my favorite, many people love it); it is a vital slice of reggae history that helped to spread the music beyond Jamaica, paving the way for the stars of the later '70s, '80s, '90s and today.

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Track Listing
1. You Can Get It If You Really Want -- Jimmy Cliff
2. Draw Your Breaks -- 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 
The Harder They Come
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