Legendary roots vocal trio Culture released their ground-breaking debut album Two Sevens Clash 40 years ago. And this is celebrated with an expanded edition of the original album.
Two Sevens Clash is a masterpiece of Biblical proportions and a set that helped to define roots reggae with its spiritual and apocalyptic messaging and close harmonizing. But musically the album isn’t the archetype of roots reggae. Two Sevens Clash is brighter and more uplifting compared to most of the sets released during the same period.
This new version comes with eleven bonus cuts – dubs mixed by Errol T and deejay versions by the likes of I Roy and Shorty the President. No fillers, only killers, even though a few of the bonus cuts have audio quality slightly below par.
Jamaican harmony trio Culture – with their uncompromising and charismatic lead sing Joseph Hill – was the epitome of dread in the mid-70s with Rastafarian themes and apocalyptic warnings of the world’s imminent demise. Their debut album was the acclaimed and prophetic Two Sevens Clash. That set along with its follow-up Baldhead Bridge were recorded with Joe Gibbs and his sidekick Errol T behind the mixing desk.
Culture soon moved on and initiated a successful and fruitful collaboration with Sonia Pottinger, one of Jamaica’s few female producers. Together they provided Richard Branson’s Virgin Front Line imprint with three super-solid roots classics – Harder Than the Rest, Cumbolo and International Herb. A fourth album was also recorded, but never released at the time.
That fourth album – unofficially at the time titled Black Rose – is now part of a massive Culture two disc reissue – Culture on the Front Line, which collects Culture’s complete recordings for Virgin. The marketing of this album is however not entirely true though, since it’s stated that Black Rose is previously unreleased. Thing is that seven of its eight tracks appeared on Heartbeat’s Trod On compilation released in 1993.
Culture on the Front Line collects a whopping 48 tracks and Black Rose is just as great as the other three sets recorded together with Sonia Pottinger. Culture is as revolutionary and radical as always. They warn against Babylonian living and cry for social change.
Culture has always relied quite a lot on the backing vocals courtesy of Albert “Ralph” Walker and Kenneth Dayes. Their chorale singing and striking harmonies are crucial to the songs. But they also add spirituality and a rural flavor and nearly all songs sound like they could have been performed in front of a bonfire late at night.
Kenyatta “Jr Culture” Hill rose to prominence in 2006 when his legendary father Joseph Hill – formerly lead singer in vocal trio Culture – died while on tour in Europe. Kenyatta Hill was travelling along and stepped up from behind the mixing desk and completed the tour. About a year later he dropped his emotional debut single Daddy, recorded together with a rooster of top Jamaican musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser.
The single was also featured on his debut album Pass the Torch, released the same year. It was in 2011 followed by the live tribute set Live On: A Tribute to Culture.
Three years have passed and Kenyatta Hill has recently put out his third album, a set on which he has certainly refined his song writing and singing skills. It’s a mature set where Kenyatta Hill almost sounds like a reincarnated version of his father with a dash of Burning Spear. His raspy tone is rural, passionate and intense.
Riddim of Life collects ten tracks, of which six are vocals and six are dub versions. It’s mainly produced by Greek-American singer and song writer Christos DC and recorded together with members from the legendary Roots Radics and U.S. reggae band The Archives.
It’s a strong set and offers some brimstone and fire riddims and emotive pleas to Jah. Listen to the peaceful Jah is My Friend or the darker and more intense Afrikan and Pressue Drop.
Kenyatta Hill keeps his father’s legacy alive and waves the red, gold and green banner high and proud.
The iconic rough and rugged vocal harmony trio Culture must have a loyal fan base, because VP Records have recently put out their fourth compilation with material from the late Joseph Hill, his cousin Albert “Randolph” Walker and Kenneth Paley.
But this new set differs from the previous three, since it collects material from a variety of sources rather than focusing only on Joe Gibbs, which has previously been the case.
The 38 track set – plus a 21 song live DVD with a 40 minute interview – titled Natty Dread Taking Over encompasses well-known material from foundation producers Joe Gibbs and Sonia Pottinger along with a few tunes from Joseph Hill’s solo album Lion Rock and the cream of the reunited group’s later work for Linford “Fatta” Marshall and Colin “Bulby” York.
What makes this compilation really interesting though is the inclusion of a solo cut by Albert Walker and Kenneth Paley for Henry “Junjo” Lawes, the album Africa Stand Alone in its entirety, four tracks from a radio session for BBC in 1983 and a King Jammy dubplate on the Sleng Teng riddim.
Africa Stand Alone has never before been available on CD or digital download and it’s a remarkable album with a raw and unpolished feel to it. And it fits Joseph Hill’s dread and educational callings for peace, love and unity very well. Several of the tunes got a bit more make-up when they were re-recorded for Sonia Pottinger and included on the album Harder Than the Rest.
The BBC radio session presents Culture standards such as Too Long in Slavery and the anthemic Two Sevens Clash in a new, different and highly enjoyable light.
Natty Dread Taking Over is more than mere fun. It’s uplifting, surprising and a great way to discover both classics and unknown nuggets from one of the greatest reggae groups of all time.
VP Records has recently put out a collectors box set with material from fire and brimstone vocal group Culture, an outfit lead by the unmistakable voice of the late Joseph Hill.
Seven Sevens Clash is an appropriate title for the box since it collects seven hard to find 7” produced by the Mighty Two – producer Joe Gibbs and engineer Errol T – responsible for the highly acclaimed album Two Sevens Clash released in 1977.
The seven inches have the vocals on the A side and its dub counterpart on the B side and are pressed with the original Joe Gibbs label sleeves and collected in a hard box set.
The vocal tracks are probably familiar to many reggae addicts with classics such as See Them A Come, Two Sevens Clash and I’m Not Ashamed. The dub versions might be less familiar, even though most of them are easily available today on CD and digital download.
Joseph Hill’s singing is rugged and passionate, while some of the mixes – particularly Informer Version – sounds like they have been mixes by Jacques Cousteau.
The box set is limited to one pressing and comes with an MP3 download card.
Vocal trio Culture is one of those groups whose influence and greatness cannot be overstated. Formed in 1976 by Joseph Hill, Albert “Randolph” Walker and Kenneth Paley they dropped their prophetic international best selling debut album Two Sevens Clash in 1977.
Two Sevens Clash – produced by Joe Gibbs and Errol T – was dreader than dread with its skillful minor chord harmonies and apocalyptical lyrics.
Culture came around the same time as many other great vocal groups – Mighty Diamonds, Gladiators and The Wailing Souls to name a few. But something was different with Culture and front man Joseph Hill. They had a rawer energy and their lyrics were always conscious and dealt with Biblical prophecy, slavery, love and unity.
Now VP Records imprint 17 North Parade has done the world a great favour by releasing a Reggae Anthology box set called Culture at Joe Gibbs consisting of three full lenght Culture albums produced by the The Mighty Two.
The box set contains Two Sevens Clash, Baldhead Bridge, More Culture and a fourth disc – As Hard as the Rest – with singles and dub versions appearing on album for the first time. All in all 43 wicked tunes by one of the greatest reggae groups of all time.
The people at VP/17 North Parade also seem to read Reggaemani, since this box set is accompanied by a booklet with some nice liner notes by Harry Wise and also some album information.
Punk rockers all around took Culture to their hearts in the 70’s and celebrated the music. If you don’t already have these albums you should do as the punks – listen to Joseph Hill and Culture.
Den nya trilogin Joe Gibbs 12” Reggae Disco Mixes från skivbolaget 17 North Parade är en säker investering för många reggaefans. Hela 33 låtar ryms på de tre skivorna som spänner från sent 70-tal till tidigt 80-tal.
Skivbolaget 17 North Parade har tidigare släppt flera samlingar med discomixar – låtar som innehåller ursprungsversionen och en deejay-eller dubversion – producerade av Joe Gibbs, exempelvis Dennis Brown & The DJ’s och Culture & The DJ’s. Båda vann mycket på att de innehöll flera extremt svåråtkomliga låtar. De förlorade dock en hel del på den taskiga mastringen, som innebar att ljudet bitvis var klart undermåligt.
Men på ljudpunkten har skivbolaget nu lärt sig en läxa. Visst, det är fortfarande inte klockrent, men en tydlig förbättring jämfört med plattorna från Dennis Brown och Culture.
Låtmaterialet håller hög klass. Här finns flera klassiska låtar som är lätta att få tag på i originalutförande, men vars discoversioner många gånger krävt både ljus och lykta för att spåras upp. Många har exempelvis kanske hört Cornell Campbells Boxing Around eller Cultures Innocent Blood, men sannolikt inte deejayversionerna Look How She Fat med Lee Van Cleef eller Rock It Up med U-Brown.
Det senaste åren har det kommit många samlingar med discomixar från flera kända producenter. Exempelvis har skivbolaget Greensleeves gjort en hjältebragd genom att släppa sina 12” Rulers med material från producenter som Augustus ”Gussie” Clarke, Jah Thomas och Linval Thompson.
Förhoppningsvis är det här en trend som fortsätter och att vi får se skivbolagen ge ut ännu fler samlingar med svåråtkomliga discomixar.