Monday, July 23, 2007

Culture "Two Sevens Clash" + Peel Session

It's easy to say that Culture's Two Sevens Clash is the greatest reggae album of all time. It's even easier - and just as accurate - to say that Two Sevens Clash is one of the greatest albums of any genre, any time. It really is that simple.

To mark its 30th anniversary, it's re-released today in remastered form with a few extra tracks:
"One of the masterpieces of the roots era, no album better defines its time and place than Two Sevens Clash, which encompasses both the religious fervor of its day and the rich sounds of contemporary Jamaica.

Avowed Rastafarians, Culture had formed in 1976, and cut two singles before beginning work on their debut album with producers the Mighty Two (aka Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson). Their second single, "Two Sevens Clash," would title the album and provide its focal point. The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. (Rastafarians believed the apocalypse would begin when the two sevens clashed, with July 7, 1977, when the four sevens clashed, the most fearsome date of concern.)

However, the song itself was fearless, celebrating the impending apocalypse, while simultaneously reminding listeners of a series of prophesies by Marcus Garvey and twinning them to the island's current state. For those of true faith, the end of the world did not spell doom, but release from the misery of life into the eternal and heavenly arms of Jah. Thus, Clash is filled with a sense of joy mixed with deep spirituality, and a belief that historical injustice was soon to be righted.

The music, provided by the Revolutionaries, perfectly complements the lyrics' ultimate optimism, and is quite distinct from most dread albums of the period. Although definitely rootsy, Culture had a lighter sound than most of their contemporaries. Not for them the radical anger of Black Uhuru, the fire of Burning Spear (although Hill's singsong delivery was obviously influenced by Winston Rodney), nor even the hymnal devotion of the Abyssinians. In fact, Clash is one of the most eclectic albums of the day, a wondrous blend of styles and sounds.

Often the vocal trio works in a totally different style from the band, as on "Calling Rasta Far I," where the close harmonies, dread-based but African-tinged, entwine around a straight reggae backing. Several of the songs are rocksteady-esque with a rootsy rhythm, most notably the infectious "See Them Come"; others are performed in a rockers style, with "I'm Alone in the Wilderness" an exquisite blend of guitar and vocal harmonies. One of the best tracks, "Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion," is a superb hybrid of roots, rocksteady, and burbling electro wizardry; its roaring lion (created who knows how) is a brilliant piece of musical theater.

"Natty Dread Take Over" twines together roots rhythms, close harmonies, and big-band swing, while even funk and hints of calypso put in appearances elsewhere on the album. Inevitably, the roots genre was defined by its minor-key melodies, filled with a sense of melancholy, and emphasized by most groups' lyrics.

But for a brief moment, roots possibilities were endless."

As 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Culture's Peel Session, it would've been fitting, don't you think, to include that on the album reissue. But no. In the spirit of public service blogging that I am known for in at least 44 households, here is that long-deleted Peel Session:
Lion Rock

Too Long In Slavery
Two Sevens Clash


Hank said...

Viva Culture! You hit the nail on the head. this album is a timeless classic (as is most of J. Hill's work, IMHO).
Joseph are sorely missed. Respect.

dave said...

I wonder what the BBC's corporate bloodsuckers had been demanding for a session reissue. Sadly there's a lot of material doomed to rot forever in the Beeb vaults. Thanks for freeing this gem. RIP Joe.

FireEscape said...

One of my mates was looking into the possibility of including a Peel session on a release. The fee was prohibitive at (I think; I have broken my memory on this point, so please use this as a rough guide!) £5000.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for posting this hard to find files. Let me say that in the file "Lion Rock -
Armageddon", at 5'33'' the track jumps some seconds. Can you fix that?

Helen Hunt said...

Thanks for posting this awesome review on your blog. I have, in fact, posted one of my favourite tracks from one of the albums. Check it out here:

If you like the track, please leave a comment on my blog too :)

kimberly said...

Nowadays is very important to know about different culture specially because many people travel from differents country. When we have some knowledge about the cultures we can understand better the people and we can understand ourselve in a simple way, and is easy to forget any taboo that impide the enjoyment of our life.
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Driving Test said...

i have been a big fan of Culture for as long as I can remember. Joseph Hill was a legend. God bless his soul.