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

Scott Simon: 'We Don't Fully Grow Up' Until We Lose Our Parents

"There are some lessons that only grief and responsibility can teach us," says Weekend Edition host Scott Simon. His new memoir, Unforgettable, is about the life and death of his mother.
NPR

The Revival Of Lamb Ham: A Colonial Tradition Renewed

British colonialists brought lamb ham to America, where a sugar-cured, smoked variety became popular. Easier-to-cure pork ham eventually took its place, but now two Virginians are bringing it back.
WAMU 88.5

Streetcar, 'Accountability' Among Key Points Of Bowser Address

D.C.'s new mayor said the H Street streetcar would survive and that "accountability" — from police, politicians and other officials — would be a defining aspect of her administration.

NPR

If Drones Make You Nervous, Think Of Them As Flying Donkeys

In Africa, where there aren't always roads from Point A to Point B, drones could take critical medicines to remote spots. But the airborne vehicles make people uneasy for lots of reasons.

Leave a Comment

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