LONG AVAILABLE only as an import, Culture's 1977 debut album "Two Sevens Clash" has often been cited by reggae insiders as a masterpiece. Finally released in the U.S. last year, the album lives up to the claims.
Culture was a Jamaican vocal trio that borrowed Motown's harmonies, put them to a syncopated reggae beat and transformed the mix with a messianic sense of Rastafarianism. Over an unpolished, infectious dance beat defined by Sly Dunbar and Lloyd Parks and over the soothing harmonies of his mates, Joseph Hill cried out like an Old Testament prophet about the coming doom of the wicked and the rise of the righteous.
After various changes and breakups, the original Culture lineup was reunited in 1986, and their comeback album "Culture at Work" harks back to their landmark debut. The Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare production gives the music a state-of-the-art quality, and there are even two irresistible dance numbers.
The core of the album, though, is still Hill's denunciations of Jamaican ghetto life and his call for spiritual uplift and unity. If the effect is not quite as apocalyptic as before, this is still some of the most passionate reggae in years.
"Two Sevens Clash" (Shanachie 44001) and "Culture at Work" (Shanachie 43047). Appearing Sunday at Kilimanjaro's Heritage Hall.