Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Roots an' Culture

I discovered Culture late in the summer of 1993. At the time I had been obsessing with buying the latest dancehall singles and discovering how to mix songs on the same riddims together as seamlessly as possible. My friend Nick and I, as we were often known to do, were spending some quality time in a store that had a pretty substantial selection of reggae CDs. I picked up a couple decent things but Nick got the gem that day when he bought Culture’s "The International Herb." Since we had made a considerable drive to get to this store we had quite a while to listen to our new purchases on our way back home. This was before the days of decent CD players in automobiles so we had hijacked Nick’s little sister’s purple and pink CD boom box, that was about the size of a storage trunk, so we could enjoy CD quality sound in my ’86 VW Golf. Instantaneously we were blown away by what we were hearing and kicking ourselves for letting this awesome piece of conscious roots reggae slip through the cracks! So to make a long story short we spent the rest of the summer buying every Culture release we could dig up either at a decent record shop or via mail order from RAS Records! My departure from listening to then-modern dancehall at that time was probably one of the reasons my interest in Jamaican music started to gravitate toward the more instrumental based sound that was more distinctly "reggae" than the electronic drum patterns that were so prevalent with early 90’s dancehall. Within a couple months my interest in keeping up with the "latest" sounds outta J.A. had waned and I was back into the roots and Culture.

Well enough about me, Culture is a vocal trio led by songwriter Joseph Hill with Albert "Ralph" Walker and Kenneth Paley (aka Kenneth Dayes) providing the harmonies. Joseph Hill started out at Studio One with the group the Soul Defenders and even released a solo single "Behold the Land." Eventually Culture went on the record for Joe Gibbs and Sonia Pottinger and almost immediately attracted a large following with reggae listeners outside of Jamaica with their strong lyrics and even stronger roots sound. Their real breakthrough was with the Joe Gibbs’ produced single "Two Sevens Clash" in 1977, which found a "sympathetic ear in the emergent punk audience." Hill eventually split with the Walker and Paley and has continued using the moniker Culture as a solo act – though I could have sworn that when I saw Culture in 2000 it sure looked like Albert Walker alongside him on stage.

I’m sharing a few Culture songs today… nothing rare but some damn fine music regardless! If you’ve had limited exposure to Joseph Hill and Culture let this sampling serve as your notice to buy some of their music. Don’t be like me and let this music slip through the cracks in your music collection for too long!

1. "Behold I Come" from the 1978 album "Baldhead Bridge"
2. "Too Long In Slavery" from the 1979 album "The International Herb"
3. "Babylon’s Big Dog" from the 1982 album "Lion Rock"
4. "One a We" from the 1987 album "Culture At Work"
5. "Outcast" from the 1997 album "Trust Me"

All these CDs are available where finer reggae music is sold and even available for download in their entireties from both Emusic and Itunes.


jd said...


I'm a BIG fan as well. I discovered them a little later than you did. However, bought some albums, and saw Culture live on the 22th of july 2004.

Great concert!

No day goes by without hearing at least 1 culture song.

HEARWAX said...

Thanks man,

Two Sevens Clash was the first reggae LP I ever purchased in the UK about '79, and like yourself I had to then buy everything I could find.
Joseph Hill has the fantastic ability to sound so joyful on the 'up' songs, yet incredibly mournful on the slower cuts.

Keep skankin'