This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site which was abandoned for its current site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is number fifteen in the series of albums I’m featuring under the title of Cream of The Crate. It is part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my collection that I believe have significant musical value.
So far I have acknowledged and reviewed albums of music covering Blues, Soul, Pop and Rock. Then I came across my reggae section, and while there are several albums I could choose from, I chose for my first review, a splendid reggae album, the 1972 “The Harder They Come” LP.
It was released on the Mango label (MLPS – 9205).
It is a beautiful gate-fold that provides a colourful cover representing the film and has a pictorial collage on the left hand side of various characters from the film. The inside right hand part of the gatefold contains the words to each song.
This LP was produced as a result of 12 fantastic reggae tracks used as the soundtrack for the film by the same name.
More a cult film it was produced and directed by Perry Henzel and released by New World Pictures. The story takes place in a shantytown in Jamaica, one of hundreds, and it tells the story through the music in the main of what life is like in the world of raw reggae and Jamaican weed!
To quote from the liner notes. “The slums of West Kingston weren’t just a location for “The Harder They Come”, they gave it birth and they gave it life. Nothing expresses that life better than the music in this album, for here there is hope and deep depression, anger and love.”
Now I heard this album first in 1974, and didn’t get to see the film until a number of years later. Yet in some ways seeing the film is unnecessary, but highly desirable for those of us with a love for Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady and all the derivatives that came before and after Reggae.
The album actually is a compilation of singles released in Jamaica from the period of 1967 through 1972 and was assembled by The Harder They Come director and co-writer, Perry Henzell.
The album was instrumental in popularising reggae in the United States and the throughout the rest of the world.
In some ways seeing the movie is unnecessary because of the the music, It really does represent some of the most classic of reggae tracks by five very well known and loved reggae stars and groups.
Really the film moved reggae from remaining an isolated phenomenon in Jamaica. In 2003, the album was ranked number 119 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
It is not the definitive list of reggae artists with one of the most obvious stars (Bob Marley) missing. However when you have a line-up of music by:
- Jimmy Cliff
- Desmond Dekker and the lesser known
then you can rightly expect great music!
This album delivers.
It is music that represents the total cross section of the ‘human condition’ – but after all, isn’t that what music like the Blues, Soul and Reggae best represents.
There is hope through a track like, “You Can Get It If You Really Want”.
Jimmy Cliff – You Can Get It If You Really Want
There is hope that that poverty created and the misery that surrounds a life of poverty will be overcome and is best represented by “Rovers Of Babylon”.
The Melodians – Rivers Of Babylon
There is defiance against the odds as declared through, “The harder They Come.
Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come
Finally, there is the declaration of how things can go so badly wrong, as told in “Johnny Too Bad”.
The Slickers – Johnny Too Bad
Each track tells a story, each track reflects an emotion.
The Album Track Listing:
- “You Can Get It If You Really Want” (Jimmy Cliff) – 2:40 performed by Jimmy Cliff
- “Draw Your Brakes” (Derrick Harriott, Texas Dixon, Keith Rowe) – 2:57 performed by Scotty
- “Rivers of Babylon” (Brent Dowe, James McNaughton) – 4:16 performed by The Melodians
- “Many Rivers to Cross” (Cliff) – 3:02 performed by Jimmy Cliff
- “Sweet and Dandy” (Frederick Hibbert) – 3:01 performed by The Maytals
- “The Harder They Come” (Cliff) – 3:41 performed by Jimmy Cliff
- “Johnny Too Bad” (Trevor Wilson, Winston Bailey, Hylton Beckford, Derrick Crooks) – 3:04 performed by The Slickers
- “007 (Shanty Town)” (Desmond Dekker) – 2:43 performed by Desmond Dekker
- “Pressure Drop” (Hibbert) – 3:44 performed by The Maytals
- “Sitting in Limbo” (Jimmy Cliff, Guillermo Bright-Plummer) – 4:57 performed by Jimmy Cliff
- “You Can Get It If You Really Want” – 2:43 (Cliff) performed by Jimmy Cliff
- “The Harder They Come” (Cliff) – 3:07 performed by Jimmy Cliff
The album is now released on CD and retails between $15.00 and $20.00 Australian, with reasonable quality vinyl albums selling second hand for about $20.00, and $40.00 for one’s in excellent condition. So it’s not that it is ‘rare’ that makes it such a valuable addition to a collection, it is that it represents a selection of really top tracks that across the whole album, tell a story.
The DVD is readily available so if you are a lover of reggae and not seen the film, there is little excuse as it can be found for as little as $8.00 with FREE postage in Oz.
Sometimes real gems are overlooked and thus their value is not appreciated. This would appear to be the case with this album. Personally, I enjoyed the film, and love the music!
All I could find is a great trailer for the movie.
Harder They Come
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
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