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Friday, June 29, 2012

Jimmy Cliff

Tonight @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.

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Few reggae albums are as widely revered as 1972's The Harder They Come, the soundtrack to the cult hit that starred Jimmy Cliff. The film and its soundtrack, which featured many of Cliff's best songs, were instrumental in introducing reggae to the masses outside of Jamaica, and though Cliff would never be the genre's biggest star—his label, Island, focused its resources on promoting Bob Marley instead, a tactic that ultimately paid off—he's still regarded as one of its all-time greats. It's something of a miracle that his voice (dulcet and supple, nothing like the voice you'd expect from the hardened rebel he depicted in the film) has aged as well as it has; judging from last year's Sacred Fire EP, it's lost none of its softness. A covers-heavy affair, the EP allowed Jimmy Cliff to pay homage to some of the artists he's inspired, with versions of The Clash's “Guns of Brixton” and Rancid's “Ruby Soho.” It also includes an inspired version of “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan, who once described Cliff's 1970 single “Vietnam” as the greatest protest song ever written.
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