Thursday, 18 April 2019

"The Harder They Come" - Original Soundtrack


  

Released February 1973

Reggae had really not been considered a credible music genre before 1973, despite the many late sixties/early seventies chart hits (particularly in the UK). The release of Bob Marley & The Wailers' "Catch A Fire" changed that and in the same year came this iconic soundtrack release. The movie of the same name was a low budget, often incomprehensible (a lot of the speech was in Jamaican patois) but highly atmospheric one and the music used that appears on this album was truly outstanding.


The tracks that had already been hit singles are the ones that always catch the eye for most people - Desmond Dekker's catchy and poppy "You Can Get It If You Really Want", his "007 (Shanty Town)" and Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come". However, it is some of the lesser-known tracks that contain some of the album's most authentic reggae. There is the patois-drenched early roots of Scotty's "Draw Your Brakes", the melodious but admonishing "Johnny Too Bad" from The Slickers and two wonderful cuts from the ebullient Toots & The Maytals - the marvellously lively "Sweet And Dandy" (a tale of a Jamaican wedding) and "Pressure Drop", one of my favourite reggae tracks of all time. There is also the original "Rivers Of Babylon" by The Melodians, which is far more roots than the Boney M version everyone knows. Strangely two of the album's most evocative numbers do not contain any reggae rhythms. Jimmy Cliff's "Sitting In Limbo" is a soulful, gentle number, while the truly iconic "Many Rivers To Cross" is a plaintive, organ-backed ballad.

It is only a short album, and, to be honest, there are many fuller, more complete compilations around, ("Trojan Presents: Classic Reggae" or "Monkey Business: The Definitive Skinhead Reggae Collection" to name but two), but the material included on here provides a great bite-sized sample of the irresistible glory of early seventies reggae.

TRACK LISTING

1. You Can Get It If You Really Want - Desmond Dekker
2. Draw Your Brakes - Scotty
3. Rivers Of Babylon - The Melodians
4. Many Rivers To Cross - Jimmy Cliff
5. Sweet And Dandy - Toots & The Maytals
6. The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff
7. Johnny Too Bad - The Slickers
8. 007 (Shanty Town) - Desmond Dekker
9. Pressure Drop - Toots & The Maytals
10. Sitting In Limbo - Jimmy Cliff
11. You Can Get It If You Really Want (Instrumental) - Jimmy Cliff
12. The Harder They Come (short version) - Jimmy Cliff

B+

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