Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cover Me Impressed: 'The Harder They Come'

In the impressive and expansive discography of Joe Jackson, his three-song 'The Harder They Come' EP, from 1980, is probably considered a minor footnote. After all, the EP didn't chart (unless you count Holland and Sweden), and the single was a cover. I'm here to argue if you're a fan of early Jackson, the 12" is well worth owning. This isn't just Jackson. This is Joe Jackson Band... a classic lineup featuring Dave Houghton on drums, Graham Maby on bass and Gary Sanford on guitar. You know them from the early albums 'Look Sharp', 'I'm the Man' and 'Beat Crazy.' The single may be a cover, but the other two songs on this EP, "Out of Style" and "Tilt," are Jackson compositions that would have fit in nicely on 'Look Sharp.'

As for the original, although I'm not really a fan of the genre, I'm educated enough to realize Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" is considered one of the all-time greats. The song, taken from the 1972 soundtrack and film of the same name, starred Cliff himself. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked the album No. 119 on its 500 greatest albums list. The song came in at No. 341 on the magazine's 500 greatest songs list. I could list accolades like this for several more sentences, but let's skip all of that and just get to the music.

Incidentally, Madness covered this song and released it as a single in 1992. Like Jackson's take, it did not chart. Nineties-era Madness is a little beyond my fandom, but you can find a live version on the band's 'Madstock!' album. It's a pretty good cover and well worth your time. Listen below.

Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come (mp3)
Joe Jackson Band - The Harder They Come (mp3)

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