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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

THE HARDER THEY COME

By Tom Pryor
Published September 8, 2005

Island

Back in the early ’70s, when Bob Marley was still on the come-up and reggae was still largely unknown outside Jamaica, singer Jimmy Cliff was the genre’s biggest superstar. He had the lead role in Perry Henzell’s 1972 cult film, The Harder They Come, but this legendary soundtrack would outshine them both, and give many their first true taste of reggae. Cliff himself contributes the title track and the scrappy striver’s anthem “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” while stalwarts like the Maytals, Desmond Dekker and the Melodians all check in, too. But it’s one-hit-wonders like the Slickers’ “Johnny Too Bad,” a latter-day rude boy lament voiced by a trio of genuine dead-end kids, that really give this classic its lasting flavor.