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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

JOHNNY NASH

By Vikram Patel
Published September 8, 2005

I Can See Clearly Now
Epic

Johnny Nash is best known for his 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” but few realize that the one-time soul singer from Houston, Texas was the first American to try his hand at recording reggae. It all started in 1967 when, on a tour of Jamaica, he recorded “Hold Me Tight” at Byron Lee’s Federal Studios. The song had a definite ska influence and became a hit in the U.S. and U.K. charts, and Nash returned to the island, diving headfirst in the local music scene and befriending Bob Marley and others. In 1971 he recorded versions of Marley’s classic “Stir It Up” and the lesser-known “Guava Jelly.” The year after Nash scored his biggest hit with “I Can See Clearly Now,” which still retains a laid-back island lilt that’s likely the result of prolonged exposure to reggae music. This collection assembles a good cross-section of Nash’s work, from his churchified soul and R&B to his sweetened pop-reggae excursions. While his recordings aren’t quite local-grade, Nash still maintains an important place in reggae history, if only because he got there first.