A huge hit back in 1972 for one time Bob Marley collaborator Johnny Nash, this delightfully upbeat song, one of North America’s earliest mass exposures to reggae (preceded on that score by Desmond Dekker’s Israelites of 1969) will be well remembered by all of us old enough to have heard the DJs spin it over and over again on our AM radios back in the day. It was ubiquitous, and so it should have been. In the intervening years it’s been covered many times, perhaps most famously by Jimmy Cliff, but to these ears nobody has reimagined it to such powerful effect as Holly Cole did with the attached, which turned it into a beautifully arranged, masterfully played, and exquisitely recorded sort of Jazz/reggae fusion number that managed the rare feat of changing almost everything from the original while doing it no violence.
It’s especially admired by geeky audiophiles like your faithful scribe, who revel in the sheer sound quality captured by the pristine and immaculate production. I use it to test and calibrate my finest high end components – it’s that good. I swear, the dynamics, the frequency response, the sound staging and sense of space around each of the instruments, from the lows of the audibly plucked upright base, through the midrange of the strings, right up to the highs emanating from the drum kit, are enough to induce shivers in folks like me. The piano is captured so clearly that it really does feel as if the thing is there in your living room, and Cole’s vocal – oh boy. They must have been using some top flight microphones in the studio.
Sound quality aside, it’s a wonderful performance. Cole’s interpretation manages to be simultaneously mellow and exultant, and far more dramatic than the source material. By the triumphant final verse, you can practically feel the warm sun on your face as it pierces a grey overcast that brought seven straight days of rain – no hyperbole. It’s pure sonic satisfaction, emotionally gratifying, and just the thing for a mopey, drizzled-upon case of the blues.