Jimmy Cliff's 'Rebirth' Gives New Life To Vintage Reggae | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Jimmy Cliff's 'Rebirth' Gives New Life To Vintage Reggae

Play associated audio

Pop music in the 21st century has been flush with precise re-creations of '60s and '70s American R&B — think of Sharon Jones, Adele, Raphael Saadiq and the late Amy Winehouse. Meanwhile, I've been waiting for a similar revival of Jamaica's R&B: ska, rocksteady, roots-reggae. Jimmy Cliff's new record, Rebirth, is exactly that.

In the decades following the deaths of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Cliff has been the last man standing out of reggae's first great international warriors. Frankly, he's made a lot of lukewarm crossover LPs over the years, but he finally decided to rewind his sound with the producer Tim Armstrong, singer for the punk band Rancid. Armstrong is a huge Jimmy Cliff fan, and he helps nail that old-school sound throughout this record — even in a cover of his own song, Rancid's "Ruby Soho."

Other good covers turn up here, too, notably The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," which mentions Ivanhoe Martin, the hardscrabble character Cliff played in the 1972 film The Harder They Come.

Cliff's originals are just as exciting, and they don't seem stuck in the past. "Children's Bread," for example, is a song about poor folks and thievery that would play quite well in an Occupy encampment.

As a pop-music critic of a certain age, I have to check myself when shouting out records that echo period sounds. Really, I'm as excited by Frank Ocean's next-generation R&B as the next guy. But good is good, killer is killer, and if anyone should be able to reanimate the vintage Jamaican music I hear bumping out of every other hipster coffee shop in town, Jimmy Cliff is the man.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Lowly Worm Is Back! Richard Scarry Jr. Brings Dad's Manuscript To Life

The younger Scarry, also an illustrator, found a draft of Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! in his dad's Swiss chalet. He says all that was missing was the final art, "so that's what I did."
NPR

A Food Crisis Follows Africa's Ebola Crisis

Food shortages are emerging in the wake of West Africa's Ebola epidemic. Market shelves are bare and fields are neglected because traders can't move and social gatherings are discouraged.
NPR

Uber Greases The Wheel With Obama's Old Campaign Manager

Uber is hiring David Plouffe, the mastermind of Obama's 2008 campaign, to power its own political strategy. What can a tech-savvy political animal offer a ride-sharing service?
NPR

Native Stories From Alaska Give Gamers Something To Play With

The video game Never Alone draws on a traditional Inupiaq story and the actual experiences of native Alaskan elders, storytellers and youth.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.