Jimmy Cliff Peter Reilly - Essay

Peter Reilly

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Of late there seems to be an awful lot of Jamaican reggae music, with its hypnotic, rock-influenced beat, around. Some of it is good, most of it bad, and so far I've heard only one recording in the well-mixed genre that I consider unique. It is Jimmy Cliff's even further hybridized new … release titled "Unlimited."…

Track after track, it burns with the intense heat of a tropic afternoon as Cliff kneads and molds the basic reggae sound into a completely contemporary and individual new form…. [Though] Jamaican reggae is not an extempore art, it sometimes sounds that way, perhaps because of its heavily vernacular lyrics and the homely nature of its subject matter: Cliff's Commercialization, for example, is a rough-cut gem about street life and street people, and Oh Jamaica is a yearning and genuinely touching anthem of affection for his Caribbean homeland.

I was alternately stirred, delighted, moved, and enchanted by Jimmy Cliff's work here. He has taken a somewhat limited and restricting musical form, opened it up, and adapted it to the sensibilities of the Seventies. He has kept all the best of the flavorful original and added something personal and dramatic of his own. He's simply terrific, and so is this album.

Peter Reilly, "Jimmy Cliff's Individualized Reggae," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1974 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 32, No. 1, January, 1974, p. 86.