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Tuesday, 11 September 2012 11:00

Charting the Music: Jimmy Cliff, 'Rebirth'

Charting the Music: Jimmy Cliff, 'Rebirth' Roy Kasten
Written by Magdalene Linck
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His first full-length studio release in seven years, Jimmy Cliff's "Rebirth" embodies the finest bits of '60s and '70s reggae while having a sound that is distinctly modern.

Cliff's new album features a mix of new tracks and updated covers, each beautifully mastered to capture Cliff's most refined sound to date. Each track transports the listener back to a time when red, gold, black and green were everyone's colors and dance halls reigned supreme.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #2 World and #25 CMJ for the week of September 4, 2012

Record label, release date and producers: On July 17, 2012, "Rebirth" was released on the Sunpower label. The album was produced by Tim Armstrong.

Can be heard on: Ska's the Limit with JJ Loy, Music at Work with Curt Faigle and Hip City with Chris Lawyer

Hometown: St. James, Jamaica

Key tracks: The album opens with a powerful, political track commenting on the state of the world. "World Upside Down" showcases the intersections of politics, religion and reggae. Originally penned in the '70s by Joe Higgs, the song finds Cliff modernizing the lyrics to fit a more contemporary setting. A perfect follow-up to the album's political opener, "One More" announces the return of Cliff to the music scene. He triumphantly proclaims that his work as an artist is not yet finished. Embodying a classic two-tone style, the track's horns near perfection as they remind the listener of the Specials. "Ruby Soho" is a pleasant and familiar surprise addition to the album. Written by Tim Armstrong in 1995 for his band Rancid, "Ruby Soho" adds an element of nostalgia for younger listeners. Cliff transforms the band's mid-'90s punk hit into sweet and smooth ska.

Key lyric: "I got one more arrow in my bow / And as I let it go / Just watch my flow" from "One More." Returning to the spotlight after seven years, Cliff clearly has more to give. Armstrong brought Cliff into the 21st century while maintaining his essence. With his words, he challenges the listener to find faults in his work. As the album unfolds it becomes evident that Cliff remains as strong as ever.

About the producer: "Rebirth's" producer, Tim Armstrong, the founder of Hellcat Records, is best known for his work in the bands Operation Ivy and Rancid.

Band members: Cliff is backed by Tim Armstrong on guitar, J Bonner on bass, Scott Abels on drums, Kevin Bivona on piano and Dan Boer on organ. Bonner, Abels and Boer each worked with reggae group the Aggrolites. Abels also worked with ska band Hepcat for a short while. Both Armstrong and Bivona worked together in the Transplants.

RIYL: Peter Tosh, the Skatalites, the Aggrolites

Play it here: Anywhere on any sunny afternoon -- few genres sound better on bright days than reggae.

Surprising fact: Jimmy Cliff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2010.

Started as a performer in: 1962. Cliff had little success with his first singles; however, in 1964, at age 16, Cliff was asked to sign to Island Records. Shortly thereafter, Cliff moved to the United Kingdom.

Notable award: Cliff is one of a select handful of living individuals that are part of the Order of Merit -- a group of individuals who have made great, lasting achievements in the arts, sciences and literature. Poet Louise Bennett-Coverley, sculptor Edna Manley and musician Bob Marley were also awarded the Order of Merit.

What the critics say: "But the record is much more than a casual rehashing of the past. Instead, 'Rebirth' is a labor of love from one of the genre's true spirits and a producer with enough smarts, history, and fanaticism to recapture the genre's highwater era in full." -- Ryan Bray, Consequence of Sound


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