I’ve often said, everything I know about Christianity I’ve learned through bluegrass music.
I’m stretching things, but it is a fairly good line.
This is true: everything I’ve learned about Rastafarianism, I’ve learned from reggae.
You won’t frequently find reggae reviewed here at Fervor Coulee. It isn’t a music I have any significant understanding of beyond that which can be gleaned from a copy of Legend and a few other compilations. I probably have thirty or forty reggae CDs, but I’ve not studied the music the way I have other roots (ha!) sounds.
I am only featuring this sweet little EP from Culture because I was afforded the download link ahead of next month’s Record Store Day. Available April 13 randomly on red, green, and yellow 12” vinyl (and CD), the package appears—and sounds—beautiful.
Like others who came of age musically in the late 70s and early 80s, I was exposed to Culture via British-import compilations. “Two Sevens Clash” was often heard, but never really understood: reggae and dub were appreciated for their rhythm, not lyrics. More informed listeners certainly understood the significance of the songs; I just grooved to it in the privacy of my bedroom. Listening today, “Calling Rasta Far I” and “Natty Dread Taking Over” sound as fresh as they did decades ago.
This seven-track EP features three cut by Joseph Hill, Albert Walker, and Lloyd Dayes with Roots Radics in 1981, and four previously unreleased tracks with The Wailers, 1983.
“Calling Rastafari” appears to be a spiritual call-to-arms (“Many will be called, but few will be chosen”), uplifting in tone and spirit. First recorded by Culture in 1976, “This Time” is a powerful song, and what we have here is the performance that was dubbed “the real” version by Hill.
Inspired by Jamaican government crackdowns, “This Time” could have been written in light of current world events: the government is abusive, and the people have had enough—“fire, fire fire in Babylon…blood, blood, blood in Babylon…we are not waiting any longer.”
“Dem A Payaka” appears less confrontational, but has a similar demand: even the playing field, give the kids an opportunity. Deep rhythms abound.
“Can They Run” captures the spirit of people who have had quite enough of politicians and leaders who cheat those they should serve. “Mister Music” is pure fun. These songs feature horn sections which add to their appeal. Both tracks are also presented with their alternate version presentations, extending the impact. The dub presentation of “Can They Run” is especially strong.
This EP from Culture is political. That the music is almost forty years old matters not: a testament to reggae’s (in general) and Culture’s (specifically) ongoing relevance, these songs are as vital today—thematically, lyrically, instrumentally—as they were when recorded.
(Reviewed based on provided download.)