Culture – Children Of Zion – album review

Culture – Children Of Zion Doctor Bird 3CD/DL Released 14 May 2021 Subtitled “The High Note Singles Collection” this 3CD set focusses in on vocal trio Culture’s late 1970s “disco plate” offerings for Sonia Pottinger’s imprint and also includes various dub versions of some of the tracks by prime studio outfit The Revolutionaries…Ian Canty hears […] The post Culture – Children Of Zion – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

Culture – Children Of Zion – album review

Culture – Children Of Zion

Doctor Bird


Released 14 May 2021

Subtitled “The High Note Singles Collection” this 3CD set focusses in on vocal trio Culture’s late 1970s “disco plate” offerings for Sonia Pottinger’s imprint and also includes various dub versions of some of the tracks by prime studio outfit The Revolutionaries…Ian Canty hears what happened immediately after the two sevens clashed…

Culture undoubtedly made their biggest splash in 1977 with their debut album for Joe Gibbs, but there is far more to the Joseph Hill-led vocal trio than just that one record. Two Sevens Clash, with the title track’s lyrical thrust influenced by a Marcus Garvey prediction that the 7th July 1977 would see mayhem unleashed in an end of the world scenario, truly hit home in Jamaica. On that day some of the island closed down in fear of judgement day’s arrival. In the UK punk rockers, many who were cultivating an interest in reggae too, saw the song and album as chiming in with their own locally-based apocalyptic visions.

The vocal trio originally came together under the name The African Disciples the year before Two Sevens Clash, with Albert “Ralph” Walker and Kenneth Dayes (also known as Roy or Kenneth Paley) joining Hill in their initial formation. They quickly changed their name to Culture and came to the attention of Joe Gibbs via an audition at his studio set up. After scoring a number of hits, including their successful debut single This Time, they recorded debut album Two Sevens Clash which made a big mark in both Jamaica and the UK in 1977.

After recording enough material for a further LP Baldhead Bridge, they fell out with Gibbs later on in the year over the royalties for Two Sevens Clash. After this break, they joined up with Sonia Pottinger’s High Note operation, where they were often billed as The Cultures for some reason. Three albums followed that were issued by Virgin’s Front Line imprint in the UK during 1978 and 1979, but a lot of the single mixes featured here were only issued in Jamaica at the time, if at all.

Any negative thoughts that Culture may have shot their creative bolt with that first LP are quickly dispelled early on disc one of Children Of Zion, with ample evidence to the contrary being immediately and consistently provided. This initial section of the set runs as one might suspect, with The High Note single a sides mostly followed by their dub equivalents. It is pretty much a non-stop delight from beginning to end. I would imagine that anyone with a taste of 1970s reggae at all would surely glean a great deal out of the selection offered here.

Hill is at the height of his powers and the rhythms are put together in ultra-cool fashion really jump. This ensues right from opening salvo Work On Natty, which featured in another form on their Harder Than The Rest LP from 1978. It has such a natural swing to it, with the lead vocal being perfectly complemented by the backing voices and music. The Natty Dub version has a great speeded up drum effect on as it goes down into echoing dub percussive bashes and sonorous bass.

One of the very best 1970s roots reggae numbers Stop The Fighting comes next and was a barbed comment on the armed attack on Bob Marley’s home in December 1976. But it also works the trick of being very catchy and uplifting too. There no feeling of hectoring, which would have been an easy trap for Culture to fall into, but they dodge it with ease throughout this collection. The tune is presented here in its 7 inch mix and also is versioned as Fussy Dub, credited to The Revolutionaries. They have the song taken down so low that it is barely discernible to the human ear, languishing right down in the mix before the chorus brings it back in.

Hill briefly struck out on his own in a DJ style on Production Something, credited to Grandpa Culture. This is a more than decent effort in that manner, a reggae rap with declamatory shouts that even sounds even better in its 12 inch mix version heard on disc three. Joseph gives a good account of himself in a different mode, even when compared to Ranking Trevor’s excellent effort that comes not long afterwards Rockers Dub, which is cut over the top of Culture’s ride on a rocksteady rhythm Trod On. The vocal mix of that tune itself features in two 12 inch mixes, one on disc one and one on disc three. Perhaps the latter just has the edge for me, coming complete with a passionate Jah Thomas talkover and minimalist dub section.

Dog A Go Nyam Dog benefits from a really full sound and is joyfully delivered. In the latter part of the track they dive into a delightfully chilled dub passage. Pyarka, which also gets another mix on disc 3, is a lovely laidback skank which shows how Culture thrived when taking on a slightly slower tempo. The 12 inch mix of Down In Jamaica is superb, the familiar “clip clop” rhythm being spiced up with an organ swirl and Hill’s ever-emotional voice. It is a joy to behold and Black Rose, which ends this disc, has a prime brass section and some eerie keyboard sounds highlighted.

Disc two of Children Of Zion commences with This Train and is a wonderful example of Culture’s lightness of touch and featured on their High Note/Virgin Front Line album Cumbolo. They knew just when to season their socially conscious lyrics with pure reggae good vibes, which means that whereas some roots reggae could be a little difficult for newcomers to digest, Culture’s efforts slip down a treat. There’s a change on this disc as we only get five actual Revolutionaries contributions, with elsewhere the dub sections being accommodated as part of the twelve inch mixes. Natty Never Get Weary is of of Culture’s key singles, a simple but lovely beat, propelled along by the lazy lope of the rhythm which sets things up for Hill to give a priceless vocal performance.

The Shepherd featured on final Front Line album International Herb and the voice arrangements here are again crucial. Hill, Dayes and Walker add the odd touch of soul and gospel influences here and there, which endow the piece with true depth and resonance. Children Of Zion itself is very bright and danceable, pulling the trademark Culture trick of marrying important words to attractive and joyful music. The dub of Forward To Africa, known as Africa Dub, demonstrates shows the subtle instrumental skills of The Revolutionaries at their very best.

By disc three of this set we reach the early 1980s, when things were changing and dancehall was beginning to usurp the roots sound in Jamaica. Culture responded by making music that would appeal to both dancers and Rastas. The disc begins with the sumptuous reggae pop of Children Of Israel, an alternative mix of Children Of Zion from the previous platter. The rather dated electronic percussion used here may nudge it a bit towards UB40 territory, but otherwise this is the band in their element. The following spiritual Wipe Your Weeping Eyes even manages to introduce some hiccupping vocal effects and country style guitar into the musical palette – there is a lot going on here and one can marvel at the invention applied.

The charming lilt of Play Skilfully has an irresistible appeal and the soul-tinged, extended (Living) Too Long In Slavery puts over the song’s message in a very accessible and satisfying way. It is left to the big, summery groove of Tell Me Where You Get It to bring Children Of Zion to an end. After 1983 Culture left High Note and the original line up split, with Hill on his own using the name for a while, though the three originals regrouped in 1986. Joseph Hill passed away in 2006 and though a line up led by his son Kenyatta still is in operation today, the glory days for Culture were in the years that this 3CD set covers (and slightly before of course).

This really is an excellent set of top quality roots reggae, direct from the 1970s with musical talent, lyrical insight and energy to burn. The dubs, whilst perhaps not quite being the wildest sound excursions ever, are smoothly performed and work extremely well as they fit in with the songs naturally. Culture were at the height of their powers in the late 1970s, when they were arguably the hottest new act on the reggae scene and the strength of their compositions and vocal skills are lucidly depicted here. If you only ever got to hear Two Sevens Clash, this is the ideal next step.

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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First Spin: The Week’s Best New Dance Tracks From Flight Facilities & Channel Tres, Godlands & More

The week's best new dance tracks from Flight Facilities & Channel Tres, Hard Feelings, Godands, Elephante, Anti Up, Boys Noize, Muzi and more.

First Spin: The Week’s Best New Dance Tracks From Flight Facilities & Channel Tres, Godlands & More

It was a sad week in the dance world, with the scene mourning the loss of producer Pierce Fulton, who died at the age of 28 after what his family describes as “a tragic struggle with mental health.”

Also this week: Porter Robinson’s Nurture debuted at No. 1 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart, and the producer also gifted us the lineup for his fall Second Sky festival. RAC went deep about why NFTs are the future, Palestinian DJ Sama Abdhuladhi spoke about her December arrest and the Middle Eastern electronic scene, Diplo sued an ex partner he’s accusing of stalking and the release of revenge porn, Winter Music Conference dropped the lineup for its forthcoming virtual event, and trance star Ilan Bluestone paid homage to his biggest fan — his mom — ahead of Mother’s Day this Sunday.

And yes, we’ve got new music, with the week’s best new dance tracks coming in hot below. Let’s dig in.

Flight Facilities feat. Channel Tres, “Lights Up”

Once again demonstrating his position as one of the most essential collaborators (and standalone voices) in current dance music, Channel Tres saunters onto “Lights Up” — his new collaborative single with Flight Facilities — and turns the track on a low simmer that heats up into a delicious all-out disco swirl. While the strings pay homage to legendary haunts like Paradise Garage, the venerable Aussie duo also layer up the synth and kick drum, adding, they say in a statement “some 90’s and 00’s elements to give the song its own character” and prevent it entry from the derivative zone. Meanwhile, Tres’ insistent refrain of “got the whole city blowin’ up” demonstrates, as Flight Facilities continue in their statement, that “his voice has a magical ability to make songs that are made for strutting.” Turn this one up and do your own sashay into the clubscape of your mind. – KATIE BAIN

Hard Feelings, “Holding On Too Long”

“Where do you go when a happy home becomes a haunted house?” Amy Douglas drawls at the start of the music video for “Holding On Too Long,” her first single with Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard as Hard Feelings. The song’s vibrant production — euphoric and upbeat with its swelling piano melodies — belies its lyrics about a relationship’s ugly demise. Douglas’ vocals are loud and powerful, yet vulnerable and raw; her singing is less of a performance and more an exorcism of rage and sorrow. “I’m tripping on a heart that’s made of stone,” she wails, nearly to the point of screaming, embodying drama in all its untamed glory. 

“’Holding On Too Long’ is the common denominator of the entire musical union of Amy and Joe,” Douglas says in a press release. “In this ‘opera of sad bangers’ here is its key aria, its ‘Un Bel Di’ from Madame Butterfly or the ‘Mad Scene’ from Lucia Di Lammermoor, the unforgettable moment of the story wherein our heroine stands up defiantly and has her moment to wail, scream and cry her pain and fury centre stage to the world.” We can’t sell it any better than that. — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ

Anti Up, “Shake”

When Chris x 2 superproducers Chris Lake and Chris Lorenzo get together in the studio, the whole Anti gets Upped. On their latest, these dudes came to “Shake” the dance floor to its knees with a post-punk, acid-house, glitch-funk get-down designed to get your whole body in freak-out mode. (Yes, that’s a good thing.) This is one rough and rowdy ride, and it’s only a taste of things to come, with Anti Up dropping a full album in August. According to a recent #AMA on Twitter, the release will include at least a dozen tracks. We’re shaking in our boots with anticipation. — KAT BEIN

Elephante, “High Water”

Usually when an artist announces a change in direction, we smile politely and keep our fingers crossed. L.A. producer Elephante is an act who’s recently done such a gear shift, with the debut song from this new era out now. And guess what? It’s great. Embracing a more live/alt-electronic sound reminiscent of acts like Big Wild, “High Water” is lush with guitars and complex percussion that stays crisp despite its many layers, with everything floating in a sea of synth. Coming from Elephante’s forthcoming sophomore album, the song has warmth, weight and a very personal backstory.

“It’s about my experience in my younger years withdrawing from opioids,” the artist born Tim Wu says in a statement. “The darkest moment in addiction where your mind gets so twisted that all you can think about is getting back to that high. During the pandemic, I thought a lot about that time in my life and saw a lot of parallels with life in quarantine, where all I wanted was to get back to the way things were pre-covid, no matter the cost.” While we’re still not quite out of the pandemic, this new music signals bright days ahead for Elephante nonetheless. — K. Bain

Godlands feat. Brux, “My Weakness”

What, or who, is your vice? Rising Adelaide producer Godlands laments the inability to just say no and walk away for good on her new single “My Weakness,” featuring fellow Aussie — and Billboard Dance February 2020 Emerging Artist — Brux. The atmospheric bass tune, heavy yet coated in shades of pastel, is slow-building, conjuring images of venturing too far into the deep end, where the water’s dark and your feet no longer touch the floor. The way the production in the chorus retreats, curls and crashes into a melodic cacophony of sonic trills, vocal clips and synth stabs is like tumbling, caught in one looming ocean wave after another in a never-ending cycle. “My Weakness” is Godlands’ second single of 2021. Earlier this week, she also announced her upcoming Thank You 4 Raging tour, set to take place across Australia in June and July. She’ll perform at Hard Summer in Southern California later this summer. — K.R.

Boys Noize feat. Jake Shears, “All I Want” 

Remember Scissor Sisters? That band is amazing, and its lead singer Jake Shears just teamed with Berlin-based techno boss Boys Noize on a bombastic bit of strange that’ll tickle and delight. Pounding drums and synth bops create an ’80s-esque new wave pop bounce. Meanwhile, the absurdist music video plays with our emotions, walking the line between heartbreak and hilarity. Directed by Dan Strei (who’s previously directed clips for acts including Charli XCX, Diplo & Sidepiece and RL Grime), it follows a lonely bodybuilder on his endless (if also empty) quest for friendship and perfection on the shores of Venice Beach. 

“When I thought about a video for this song, the idea about reversing the lyrics ‘all I want is you’ was the first thought,” Boys Noize says in a press release. “People obsess so much about their body, their look, their social profiles, their ‘likes,’ and it becomes more important than everything else. I was a fan of Dan Streit’s previous work and focus on unique fringe characters, so I contacted him and presented him the idea for this video. He loved it and took it to the next level.” — K. Bein

Muzi, “Interblaktic”

“Told you I’m a boss, you’ve ignored that,” South African artist Muzi repeats a few times on his latest, “Interblaktic,” but there’s no more denying status once you’ve ingested the track a few times. At once thick and tightly contained, “Interblaktic” is deeply cool and kind of woozy, with the pair of nearly idiosyncratic piano chords that arrive throughout adding to the heady, house-music-in-space vibe.  The song comes with a gorgeously shot music video in which Muzi strolls through the desert dressed in a self-described “Zulu Skywalker” ensemble that he designed in conjunction with Vans. “Interblaktic” is also the first single from an album of the same name that’s dropping this fall. — K. Bain

Source : Billboard More   

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