Culture's 1977 debut album Two Sevens Clash was, for me, the highlight of a period, roughly covering the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, when the public profile of reggae music in the UK was at its highest, bringing with it an outstanding set of artists and record releases. Whilst many British bands from this era were establishing themselves, such as Steel Pulse, Matumbi, Aswad and (my favourite) Misty In Roots, and (rightly) casting aside such reggae-copyists as UB40, it was (of course) from Jamaica that the truly authentic sound (and, undoubtedly, the best music) was emanating. This music covered quite a wide range of reggae styles, from the more populist sounds of the likes of Bob Marley and The Wailers, The Gladiators, Denis Brown and Gregory Isaacs, through to the heavier (often more dub-based) sounds of the likes of Tapper Zukie, Dillinger and U-Roy. For me, however, no band combined these two elements more effectively than Joseph Hill's band Culture and no record from this era bettered their album Two Sevens Clash.
Produced by the legendary Jamaican producer Joe Gibbs and featuring the equally famous rhythm section of Sly Dunbar (on drums) and Robbie Shakespear (on guitar), the album contains 10 songs, all of them successful in providing an outstanding mix of Hill's impassioned lead vocals, lyrics infused with spiritual yearnings and protest, and backed with brilliant melodies and hooks. It really is something of a thankless task trying to pick highlights from such an outstanding album, but if pressed, I would highlight the brilliance of I Am Not Ashamed, I'm Alone In The Wilderness, See Them A Come, Jah Pretty Face and the masterpiece that is the album's title song.
I should stress that this album is not just an album for reggae aficionados, but is essential listening for anyone with an interest in (good) music.