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Two Sevens Clash

Culture

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Album Review

One of the masterpieces of the roots era, no album better defines its time and place than Two Sevens Clash, which encompasses both the religious fervor of its day and the rich sounds of contemporary Jamaica. Avowed Rastafarians, Culture had formed in 1976, and cut two singles before beginning work on their debut album with producers the Mighty Two (aka Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson). Their second single, "Two Sevens Clash," would title the album and provide its focal point. The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. (Rastafarians believed the apocalypse would begin when the two sevens clashed, with July 7, 1977, when the four sevens clashed, the most fearsome date of concern.) However, the song itself was fearless, celebrating the impending apocalypse, while simultaneously reminding listeners of a series of prophesies by Marcus Garvey and twinning them to the island's current state. For those of true faith, the end of the world did not spell doom, but release from the misery of life into the eternal and heavenly arms of Jah. Thus, Clash is filled with a sense of joy mixed with deep spirituality, and a belief that historical injustice was soon to be righted. The music, provided by the Revolutionaries, perfectly complements the lyrics' ultimate optimism, and is quite distinct from most dread albums of the period.

Although definitely rootsy, Culture had a lighter sound than most of their contemporaries. Not for them the radical anger of Black Uhuru, the fire of Burning Spear (although Hill's singsong delivery was obviously influenced by Winston Rodney), nor even the hymnal devotion of the Abyssinians. In fact, Clash is one of the most eclectic albums of the day, a wondrous blend of styles and sounds. Often the vocal trio works in a totally different style from the band, as on "Calling Rasta Far I," where the close harmonies, dread-based but African-tinged, entwine around a straight reggae backing. Several of the songs are rocksteady-esque with a rootsy rhythm, most notably the infectious "See Them Come"; others are performed in a rockers style, with "I'm Alone in the Wilderness" an exquisite blend of guitar and vocal harmonies. One of the best tracks, "Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion," is a superb hybrid of roots, rocksteady, and burbling electro wizardry; its roaring lion (created who knows how) is a brilliant piece of musical theater. "Natty Dread Take Over" twines together roots rhythms, close harmonies, and big-band swing, while even funk and hints of calypso put in appearances elsewhere on the album. Inevitably, the roots genre was defined by its minor-key melodies, filled with a sense of melancholy, and emphasized by most groups' lyrics. But for a brief moment, roots possibilities were endless. Sadly, no other group followed Culture's lead, and even the trio itself did not take advantage of it, especially after parting ways with Gibbs. When Culture re-emerged in the mid-'80s, they swiftly moved into a reggae lite/world music mode a world apart from where they started. Thus, Clash remains forever in a class all its own.

Customer Reviews

two sevens clash

This work influenced many Punk artists. It also played a large part in the reggae culture which was played between live bands, and on its release the Two sevens clash was an instant classic. The coolest issue from that era.

Hard to beat this

A lost classic of the best era in music. 'Two Sevens Clash' & 'I'm Not Ashamed' rank alongside the best new wave music of the time. Twinkle Brothers 'Jahoviah' (12" version) & Prince Far I 'No More War' are there too. Some tracks understandably suffer by comparison but put this on, you won't keep still & the sun will shine.

Biography

Formed: 1976

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Vocal trio Culture helped define the sound and style of Rastafarian roots reggae, thanks largely to charismatic singer, songwriter, and leader Joseph Hill. True to their name, Culture's material was devoted almost exclusively to spiritual, social, and political messages, and Hill delivered them with a fervent intensity that grouped him with Rastafarian militants like Burning Spear and Black Uhuru. Their classic debut, Two Sevens Clash, is still considered a roots reggae landmark, and most of their...
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