Culture and The Abyssinians
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Dec. 14, 2007
CultureTwo Sevens Clash – The 30th Anniversary Edition (Shanachie)
The AbyssiniansSatta Massagana Deluxe Edition (Heartbeat)
1976-77 found Jamaica in turmoil, rife with political violence and social upheaval. Jamaican music was experiencing its own creative explosion of Rastafarian-fueled songs of social consciousness propelled by an innovative, militant "rockers" beat. From this fecund cauldron came these two monumental roots reggae albums. The title track of Culture's debut LP, when first released as a single prophesying Armageddon, brought the Caribbean isle to a standstill on 7/7/77. It also shot the vocal trio to international success. Led by dynamic and passionate frontman Joseph Hill, the album, with songs like "See Them a Come" and "Calling Rastafari," helped forge a new generational direction by melding traditional vocal harmonizing with a fresh, rebellious sound and message. The album was embraced by UK punk rockers at the time, and Rolling Stone later christened it "one of the 50 coolest records ever made." This 30th anniversary reissue includes five additional tracks – three extended 12-inch mixes and two dubs – plus an informative booklet. Originally released in very limited quantities as Forward Onto Zion in 1976, the Abyssinians' landmark adheres to a more traditional trio sound of sweet, soaring vocal harmonies and deep hypnotic roots grooves. Not only has "Satta Massagana" become the undisputed "reggae national anthem"; "Declaration of Rights" and "Y Mas Gan" (recently covered by Sinéad O'Connor) stand as foremost examples of social and devotional Rasta consciousness. This deluxe edition features four bonus tracks, including two extended mixes. Roots reggae doesn't get any better than this.