Jimmy Cliff Ed Ward - Essay

Ed Ward

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Reggae is gonna make it. I know it. I know it with all the conviction of a religious convert, and I've been spreading the word….

Unfortunately, the record which is going to change things so drastically is not Jimmy Cliff's new album. I say "unfortunately," because [Unlimited] is released on a major US label which is perfectly capable of doing a more than honorable job of promoting it, getting it into the stores, and keeping it in the public eye. But I'm afraid Jimmy Cliff, in his mid-20s, is already a has-been, at least as a singer. He was electrifying in the movie The Harder They Come, and both his acting and his songs held the picture together, but all those songs date from the same era which produced his LP masterpiece, Wonderful World, Beautiful People…. Since then, he's done a lot of work but little of it has been reggae…. And now, we're asked to believe that Jimmy has returned to his roots and cut Unlimited.

Well, it's not awful, I'll give it that. It could have been, especially given Jimmy's political proclivities these days, which make only slightly more sense than David Peel's. One song, "On My Life," is even pretty decent. But on the whole, it's a very poor showing, with embarrassing lyrics on songs like "Commercialization" and "Poor Slave."… In fact, some of the songs aren't even reggae and sound more like low-budget soul music.

Ed Ward, "Records: 'Unlimited'," in Creem (© copyright 1973 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 5, No. 6, November, 1973, p. 70.