Monday, 20 June 2016

"Wonderful World, Beautiful People" (USA LP title) aka "Jimmy Cliff" (UK LP title) by JIMMY CLIFF (Part of Hip-O Select's 2005 4CD Remastered Book Set 'Better Days Are Coming: The A&M Years 1969-1971') - A Review by Mark Barry...



USA CD Remaster Version of The Album within this 4CD Book Set

Rear Sleeve of the Hip-O Select 4CD Book Set

"…I've Got Many Rivers To Cross...Until I Get Over…"

In the late 60ts and early 70ts - Reggae superstar JIMMY CLIFF was released on A&M Records in the USA and Island and Trojan Records in the UK – with an awful lot of crossover on the tracks between the two countries.

But if you want the best audio for his socially smart and Reggae-Soulful “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”/"Jimmy Cliff" LP (1970 in the USA, 1969 in the UK) – this gorgeous Hip-O Select 4CD Book Set out of the States is the place to locate it (and so much more). Here are the details and the many rivers to cross...

USA released October 2005 - "Better Days Are Coming: The A&M Years 1969-1971" by JIMMY CLIFF on Hip-O Select B0005362-02 (Barcode 602498322994) is a 4CD Book Set - and Disc 1 features the "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" LP (known as "Jimmy Cliff" in the UK) with one Bonus Track and plays out as follows (36:47 minutes):

Side 1:
1. Time Will Tell
2. Many Rivers To Cross
3. Viet Nam
4. I’m Gonna Use What I Got (To Get What I Need)
5. Hard Road To Travel

Side 2:
6. Wonderful World, Beautiful People
7. Sufferin’ In The Land
8. Hello Sunshine
9. My Ancestors
10. That’s The Way Life Goes
11. Come Into My Life
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" released January 1970 in the USA on A&M Records SP-4251 and November 1969 in the UK as “Jimmy Cliff” on Trojan TRLS-16 with the same tracks.

12. Waterfall

US and UK 7" SINGLES around the album:
“Waterfall” was the non-album B-side of the 7" single "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" released in November 1969 on A&M Records 1146 in the USA. The song “Waterfall” had been released as the A-side of a UK 45 on Island WIP-6039 in late 1969 with “The Reward” as its B-side (no featured on this set).

A&M also issued "Viet Nam" from the album as a 45 in the USA on A&M Records AM 1167 in February 1970 with "Come Into My Life" as its B-side. Trojan Records in the UK issued "Come Into My Life" as the A-side in March 1970 on Trojan TR-7745 with the album cut "Sufferin' In The Land" as its B-side (some European territories like Germany and Italy even gave this release a picture sleeve – as they did the release that preceded it - "Viet Nam").

The packaging is exceptional - a long hardback book with embossed sleeve in what feels like recycled card and paper, pictured and themed CDs, superb US and UK discographies, detailed liner notes - it's beautiful to hold and look at. But the real goods as ever lie in the sound...

GAVIN LURSSEN has remastered the original master tapes at the Mastering Lab and the sound/audio is gorgeous. One of the complaints about reggae CD reissues is that they always sound muffled and compressed compared to the whack of their original vinyl counterparts - and as a lover of old records - that's actually true. One of the reasons for this is that some small independent reggae labels had to reuse tapes for economy, so the originals don't exist - and their reissues use a copy of a copy. But this is A&M/Island Records - so the tapes are still in tact and as evidenced here - in tip-top shape. Lurssen has restored life into these songs and brought out the lovely musicianship on them, excessive hiss levels are kept to a minimum without loss of feel and track after track is a joy to listen to. The clarity of the bass, piano, drums, backing vocals and strings on "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" is just one of many examples - an absolute revelation.

An impressive nine of the eleven tracks are Jimmy Cliff originals – including some stone cold classics as “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “Come Into My Life” and the magisterial “Many Rivers To Cross” – bizarrely only ever a B-side on 45 to “The Harder They Come” on Island WIP 6139 in October 1972. The two covers have interesting histories – both being Soul songs from 1968. “I’m Gonna Use What I Got (To Get What I Need)” is a Jimmy Holiday A-side from his days at Minit Records (October 1968 USA 7” single on Minit 32053). Cliff takes a mid-tempo number and ratchets up the tempo with added strings and trombones and those reggae big drums. It cleverly feels like a Reggae message song. With a wickedly good organ groove and backbeat - the pride of roots come shining through in the other cover – “My Ancestors”. It’s a Bob Tubert and Demetriss Tapp song picked up by Lou Rawls in February 1968 on Capitol Records CL 15533 - a song about the singer’s son being as ‘mighty’ as his ‘ancestors’ through bloodline. He kind of rocks it up for "That's The Way It Goes" (not great really) and its easy to see why the chipper and upbeat "Come Into My Life" was picked as a 45 - the kind of crossover Reggae-Soul 7” single radio loved.

To sum up - sure it's expensive and it could have been sequenced to feature more of what we want - but "Better Days Are Coming" is still a peach - a thing of beauty to behold and more importantly to listen too. A lot of it isn’t even Reggae in the traditional sense of the word – more Reggae-Soul – with a positive vibe and message for all to hear.

If you want a cheaper CD variant of "Wonderful World, Beautiful People"/"Jimmy Cliff" - Caroline Records of the UK have issued a November 2015 ‘Expanded Edition’ of "Jimmy Cliff" (the UK title) on Caroline CAROLR026CD (Barcode 600753634790) which has the 11-track LP and a generous 13 extras – rarities – even some foreign language versions.

But for me there’s something about Lurssen’s mastering on the 2005 Hip-O Select 4CD reissue that sends me every time.

Either way - frankly - cross as many rivers as you can to get this set into your life… 

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