1977 Joseph Hill and his group Culture released the archetypal
roots reggae album "Two Sevens Clash," a masterpiece that Rolling
Stone recently ranked 25th on its list of The 50 Coolest Records.
Celebrated for its brilliant mix of scorching reggae rhythms,
militant protest lyrics and Hill's passionate lead vocals, the
politically-charged album was a major influence on London's
burgeoning punk rock scene.
Today, some 26-years after "Two Sevens," Hill and company are
still making topical, incendiary music as evidenced on Culture's
latest release "World Peace." The album is another tour-de-force
of organic roots reggae featuring all the classic elements of the
genre tailored for contemporary audiences - an impressive
milestone given that "World Peace" marks Culture's 30th album.
"It makes me feel younger," says Hill about reaching his 30th long
player. "Fact is that I had almost considered retiring for a while
but then something told me that I should go on. I just feel like
cranking up - like I put a new gear box in, rebuilt my engine and
I'm ready to go again."
Hill's renewed sense of energy is palpable throughout "World
Peace," especially on blistering cuts that attack poverty, war and
injustice like "Time is Getting Harder," "No Segregation" and the
title track. The singer/songwriter, whose fervent, gospel-based
tone is one of the most recognizable voices in reggae, recorded
"World Peace" earlier this year at Mixing Lab, one of Kingston's
Richly arranged and tightly-produced with a full horn section,
background singers and cracking rhythm section, "World Peace"
features some of Jamaica's top studio musicians including the
Firehouse Crew with veterans Dean Fraser (saxophone), Robbie Lyn
(keyboards), Dwight Pinckney (guitar) and members of Shaggy's
band. Like the rest of Culture's deep discography, "World Peace"
is a full bodied album with heavy rhythms ranging from dancehall
style beats to traditional Rastafarian-inspired drumming all
played on real instruments.
"Dealing with digital sound is like trying to talk with a dead
man," says Hill. "But dealing with live sound, then you are there
making life so simple and realistic."
The self-produced album marks Culture's first release of new
material for Heartbeat Records. Over the years, the Cambridge,
Massachusetts-based label has reissued some of Culture's classic
material from the late '70s and early '80s.
Hill was enthusiastic and well prepared for the "World Peace"
recording sessions. "He would spend about 15 minutes talking to
the musicians, but not about music," says Heartbeat's A & R
Director Chris Wilson. "It would basically be a pep talk. And
after this little discussion everybody's on the same wavelength. A
lot of the songs on the record are first takes."
That spontaneous, live feeling comes through on the album's
dramatic title track recorded just as the U.S. war in Iraq was
starting. Over a rolling, ominous bass line, Hill implores "We
can't take another war, we want world peace…mass destruction, deep
corruption, cover up."
"People can live more peaceful than the way they are living at
present," says Hill about the song's message. "We don't have to be
animalistic to each other. This is a time when people should think
about each one as a brother. And if that could be added on top of
the beauty of the plants and the birds and all the rest, then the
world would be a double beautiful place."
Hill (now synonymous with the name Culture) is reggae music's
leading elder statesman - part of an exclusive fraternity of
veteran roots reggae artists still singing potent songs of truth
and rights a quarter of a century after first emerging on the
Kingston music scene. Alongside Burning Spear, Dennis Brown and
Bob Marley, Culture helped popularize Rastafarian-influenced
reggae around the world with several internationally released
albums on the Virgin Records label and countless worldwide tours.
In addition to building a solid and lengthy international career,
Hill has always remained on top of the local music scene and is
revered in Jamaica as a survivor of Kingston's cut-throat music
business as well as for his stature as a musical freedom fighter.
"Hanging out with him in Jamaica for two weeks," recalls Wilson,
"everywhere he would go people would be trying to hail him up -
beeping in the cars, shouting out the windows, it's amazing."
Hill's influence on the younger generation of reggae stars can be
heard in the passionate vocals of current hitmakers such as Sizzla
and Anthony B who view Hill as a musical godfather of righteous
"Makes me feel responsible for the music," says Hill. "It feels
good. Everybody is supposed to try to do the best they can as long
as they can. If you do the music in the right way, then you are
responsible for your self esteem and the well doing of good things
in the world."
Hill's concern for humanity has always been evident in his music
and "World Peace" is no exception. On the album's opening track,
the breezy "Sweet Freedom," Hill sings out for equal right and
justice, for all.
"Some people are so free and have so much liberty," says Hill,
"but they don't even consider the next person should be free also.
And each person have blood run through their veins and each person
have some feelings. So that is song is teaching us to be more
human to each other."
Never one to rest on his laurels, Hill continues to be one of
reggae's most active recording artists and live performers. His
strong work ethic is part of the inspiration for another "World
Peace" highlight, the sprightly "Long Day Bud A Bawl," on which he
admonishes idle people.
"The fact is that the lazy people have to get up and do
something," says Hill. "Stop depending on another person to cry
out loud for you. Cry out with your own voice or give an assistant
crying and the voice will be louder. In other words, do something
with your life which is progressive."
And since the '70s, Hill has taught by example, recording some of
the most progressive and socially conscious songs in all of
popular music. Hill has sustained his extensive career by
incorporating new sounds and ideas while holding on to his roots.
"World Peace" is as much a milestone for being Culture's 30th
album as it is for being another vital message from roots reggae's