Album Reviews

Jimmy Cliff – Fantastic Plastic People

UK release date: 14 October 2002


There seems to have been a resurgence in popularity of this Jamaican reggae legend, evident not only in the recent Mobo award for Outstanding Contribution to Urban Music over the last four decades or so, but also in the celebrity pulling power evident on this latest album – namely, Sting, Joe Strummer, Annie Lennox and Jools Holland, as well as other former Eurythmic Dave Stewart. And no wonder – this after all, is the man who brought us such reggae delights as Wonderful World Beautiful People before most people had ever heard of Bob Marley.

Musically, Cliff has retained his ability to produce the uplifting melodies typical of yesteryear; best exemplified in No Problems Only Solutions, which is reminiscent of one of his earlier hit songs You Can Get It If You Really Want. However, the sound of the whole album is way too polished, thanks (but no thanks) to the over-zealous production talents of Dave Stewart. Thus the result is closer to late UB40 (or worse still, the Lighthouse Family) than roots reggae.

The lyrics are another area which are heavily overstated. It remains a sad fact in music that when people begin to talk about positivity and power of the people, they begin to sound like an S Club 7 song. While the sentiment, of course, is laudable and there’s no doubt that Cliff really means it, there are no attempts to disguise the cliches as they come thick and fast. “The world is yours with a positive mind,” he says on ‘Positive Mind’, and even states that “Every cloud has a silver lining” without a hint of irony in No Problems Only Solutions.

Ultimately, it’s the sort of record you would expect from a living legend whose chances of recreating his former greatness in this day and age are slim. I would suggest any newcomers to Cliff’s music to delve deep into his past work, leaving this album to the completionists.


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Jimmy Cliff – Fantastic Plastic People


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