VARIOUS The Harder They Come (Island)
For a film with such a tragic undertow, “The Harder They Come” packs in a joyous wallop of a soundtrack. It’s part roots reggae jukebox programmed by director Perry Henzell, part Jimmy Cliff album. Practically every track here is a kind of classic. Cliff is in mighty form and sweet voice throughout, contributing “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “Many Rivers To Cross”, with its gorgeous church organ introduction, “Sitting In Limbo” and the title track. The Melodians beam “Rivers Of Babylon” back from a time before Boney M, and The Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” says absolutely nothing in utterly irresistible fashion. Their “Sweet And Dandy” is equally joyous, and thick with a patois that the printed lyrics make no attempt to decode. In all seriousness, if Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Legend” is the only reggae album you own, this should be your second; it’s almost indecently good.
It’s equally well-served by the best example of Universal’s Back To Black reissue series I’ve yet examined. The cover is restored to its former gatefold glory, there’s a protective plastic outer to keep it that way, and the 180 gram pressing sounds pretty decent given the relatively primitive source material. It’s probably the first Back To Black that I can actually recommend.