Jimmy Cliff Pete Welding - Essay

Pete Welding

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Struggling Man] is a very pleasant reggae outing that is most effective as a program of low-keyed, easy dance music. While nicely crafted, the songs are not all that distinctive as pop fare. There's nothing wrong with them but, for all their unforced rythmic resilience and melodic infectiousness, there's nothing all that memorable about them either. Not one of them sticks in the mind, even after repeated playing. And if a pop song doesn't do that, what does it do?

The absence of striking song materials is a really serious deficiency and all of Cliff's virtues as singer and producer cannot compensate sufficiently for this lack. One cannot criticize or take exception to any of the songs. As I noted, there's nothing really "wrong" with them; melodically and textually they're quite attractive, very pleasant…. It's largely a matter of degree, I suppose. That is, in general outline the songs are consonant with the conventions of reggae music (they definitely have that sound and feel) but they never go any farther than that. None attains the singular, beautifully wrought, almost gemlike quality of the authentically successful pop song. There is, however, a knowing, consistent professionalism to the entire album and if your're a rabid reggae fan this will make for an engaging, though scarcely ear-opening, addition to your LP collection.

Pete Welding, "Record Reviews: 'Struggling Man'," in down beat (copyright 1974; reprinted with permission of down beat), Vol. 41, No. 16, October 10, 1974, p. 22.