“The 1972 movie was a mixed bag, but its soundtrack served as most Americans’ first introduction to reggae” (Tyrangiel/ Light). “It is a collection of consistently excellent early reggae songs by artists who went on to thrive with reggae’s increased popularity and others for whom this is the most well-known vehicle” (Ball).
Jimmy Cliff, “playing Ivanhoe Martin, would-be reggae singer turned renegade” (Tyrangiel/ Light), “is both the star of the movie and the headliner on the soundtrack. He contributes three excellent songs: the hymnal Many Rivers to Cross, You Can Get It If You Really Want, and The Harder They Come” (Ball).
“Interestingly, the better production values of his songs actually seems to detract from them when compared to the rougher, but less sanitized, mixes of the other tracks. All the songs on this collection are excellent, but some truly stand out. Toots & the Maytals deliver two high-energy songs with Sweet and Dandy and Pressure Drop (covered by the Clash among others)” (Ball).
“Desmond Dekker & The Aces showed off reggae's roots in 50s R&B on (007) Shanty Town” (Tyrangiel/ Light) and “Scotty develops a mellow, loping groove on Stop That Train (not the same as the Wailers’ song by the same name)” (Ball).
“Just as good are the contributions from mostly forgotten acts like The Melodians and The Slickers, whose Johnny Too Bad is a parable of the film – only far better” (Tyrangiel/ Light). On the latter, “the Slickers prove…that you don't have to spout profanity or graphic violence to convey danger” (Ball).
“The Harder They Come was only a modest success, but it opened the door for the arrival of Bob Marley, global superstar, a few years later” (Tyrangiel/ Light). It “is strongly recommended both for the casual listener interested in getting a sense of reggae music and the more serious enthusiast. Collections don't come much better than this” (Ball).