Jimmy Cliff: Rebirth

jimmy cliff, rebirthJimmy Cliff: Rebirth
On his latest single “One More,” Jimmy Cliff sings “I got one more shot at the prize.” This seems to work as a motto for Cliff more than a simple line. Ever since he was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, he has not let a day go by trying to reach that prize. For many legends, it is easy to tour playing their greatest hits and resting on their laurels; Jimmy Cliff is not interested in that. Instead he entered a studio to record with Rancid guitarist Tim Armstrong. The sessions resulted in last year’s Sacred Fire EP which was an amuse-bouche for this year’s Rebirth.
Of the five tracks that appeared on the Sacred Fire EP, three of them appear on Rebirth which includes the excellent covers of The Clash‘ classic “Guns of Brixton” and Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.” So that means we are treated to nine completely new tracks from Cliff.
Most of the album has a classic reggae vibe, sounding as if Cliff recorded the tracks at the same time as “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1972. While many songs keep a sunny disposition, the oddball tracks are the ones that really differentiate themselves. “Bang” is a dark track that sounds the most Armstrong-influenced with its snaky guitar-line and minor tones. Reading the album credits though, it is not one of the several tracks on the album not partially credited to the Rancid front-man. Of the Armstrong co-written tracks, “Outsider” is the most interesting. With the shuffling gospel beat and the female-trio backing vocals, it sounds like a song more well suited for Amy Winehouse than what we traditionally associate with Jimmy Cliff.
While it is nice to hear Cliff branch out, it is clear where his wheelhouse is. On “Reggae Music,” he unashamedly sings “reggae music gonna make me feel good/reggae music gonna make me feel alright now.” While that seems like a simple–almost inane–chorus, it is sung with such joy that the listener knows it is the truth. At 64 years old, Jimmy Cliff is doing exactly what he wants to. What is wrong with that?
Rating: 8.4/10
MP3: Jimmy Cliff “Bang”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl