Struggling Man

by: Jimmy Cliff

Written in the aftermath of his longtime producer Leslie Kong's tragically early death, 1972's Struggling Man reflected Jimmy Cliff's desperate attempt to shake himself out of mourning and find a new career path. And it really was a struggle. Cliff had spent virtually his entire career with Kong, joining his Beverley's label in 1962, when he was only 14. Without Kong by his side, the singer was at a paralyzing loss, a state also reflected by his single "Sitting in Limbo." The following year, Cliff signed to Reprise, and released the Unlimited album, which was greeted coolly by audiences at home and abroad. Thus, the still struggling singer wryly recut "Struggling Man," and titled his new album after the song. It's telling that Cliff, one of the island's greatest songwriters, managed to compose little more than half the set. Even so, the star works hard to put a brave face on, with numbers like "Better Days Are Coming," "Sooner or Later," "Let's Seize the Time," and "Come on People" trying to rally up his old optimism that any and all obstacles can be overcome with hard work and self belief. But the nostalgic "Good, Good Old Days" suggests Cliff can't quite let go of the past. His youthful hopes are fading, as "When You're Young" makes clear, while his dreams of stardom have turned to dust, as he vividly describes on "Going Back West." Cliff's fortunes would dramatically shift the following year, with the American release of his The Harder They Come film, but this album finds him at his lowest ebb. However, it's the intensity of the singer's struggle during this period that fuels this set, his pain, confusion, and turmoil are raw, packing the set with an emotional intensity that he'll never quite equal elsewhere. It's unlikely that Cliff himself has fond memories of this album, but regardless, its power remains undiluted by the years. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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