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Album review: Jimmy Cliff's 'Sacred Fire EP'

November 28, 2011 |  6:09 pm

Album review: Jimmy Cliff's 'Sacred Fire EP'

Reggae history doubles back on itself on Jimmy Cliff's new EP, which opens with a cover of “The Guns of Brixton,” the Clash tune that name-checks Cliff's 1972 movie “The Harder They Come.” What's more, the EP was produced by Tim Armstrong of Rancid, a devoted Clash acolyte whose own Jamaican leanings speak to Cliff's influence on punks from successive generations; after “The Guns of Brixton,” Cliff, 63, does Rancid's “Ruby Soho,” reanimating Armstrong's memory of “echoes of reggae coming through my bedroom walls.”

Plenty of older artists have taken up with young inheritors lately — think of Loretta Lynn and Jack White, or Betty Wright and the Roots. “Sacred Fire,” though, feels especially busy with cultural-historical cross talk; it's always reminding you that Jimmy Cliff was there first.

Thanks to the singer's high, supple vocals (and to Armstrong's uncluttered arrangements), the music doesn't sag under all that accumulated weight — even as Cliff ambles through the portentous visions of Bob Dylan's “A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall.” “Our ship is sailing,” he sings in the sole original here, and that buoyancy keeps “Sacred Fire” afloat.

Jimmy Cliff
'Sacred Fire EP'
(Collective Sounds)
Two and a half stars (Out of four)


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