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Jimmy Cliff

Music Features Jimmy Cliff
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Jimmy Cliff

Talk about calling in a few favors. For his first set in over six years, Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff wound up being backed by such stellar sidefolk as Sting, Annie Lennox, Wyclef Jean, Bounty Killer, Kool & The Gang, even Joe Strummer on a song the late Clash leader penned especially for his longtime idol. The sessions were produced by no less than Dave ‘Eurythmics’ Stewart, in the Caribbean and his home studio in London. “And that’s why the album’s called Black Magic,” says Cliff, who wrote and recorded his first song for Leslie “King” Kong in Kingston way back in 1962. “Because everybody came together just like magic. Not that I set out to make an album featuring all these folks—I really just wanted to make a new Jimmy Cliff album. But I met Dave in Jamaica. We wrote one song together, then we said, ‘Hey—let’s continue. This is good.’ Then word went out and all these people gravitated toward us. Just like that.”

Lyrically, the record is decidedly uplifting, with Cliff crooning—in one of modern music’s all-time greatest voices—self-affirming statements like “Love Comes,” “I Want I Do I Get” and “The World Is Yours (Positive Mind).” Musically, it’s all over the reggae-permutation map and quite intentionally, Cliff clarifies. “You see, reggae—as it’s accepted to be called reggae now—is a great music form, as opposed to most other musical forms, like jazz, country or rock ’n’ roll. And the reason is, it keeps evolving. Reggae evolved from ska to rock steady to blue beat to rub-a-dub reggae, then to ragga reggae and ragamuffin reggae and now to dancehall. And I stayed with it all the way—I refused to live in the past. And I’m happy to say that what I’ve achieved on this album is a combination of all of those forms, all on one recording. Plus, I think I’m still staying one step ahead.”

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