Harder Than the Rest

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The string of albums Culture recorded during the late '70s contained some of the most reliably solid sets from the tail end of reggae's roots era. These early releases for the production team of Joe Gibbs and Errol "E.T." Thompson yielded the group's finest work. Following an unfortunate engagement at Duke Reid's famous Treasure Isle studios (the results of which can be found on the unauthorized Africa Stand Alone), the vocal trio hooked up with Sonia Pottinger and engineer Errol Brown. The partnership, kick-started by Harder Than the Rest, proved highly fruitful, producing a series of albums that closely approached the quality of the earlier releases. This 1978 set finds lead singer Joseph Hill and harmony vocalists Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes in a mellow mood. Though the melodies can suggest otherwise, by the sound of Hill's voice, the singer can't quite disguise the weight of his words. Songs detail the group's concern for the people of their community in general, and for Rastafarians specifically, driving home a series of lessons, warnings, and pleas. The one song that attempts to dodge these realities, "Love Shines Brighter," is unfortunately marred by over-sentimentality. The typically excellent assembly of session men respond to such material with an appropriately light touch: the exemplary rhythm work of keyboardists Ansel Collins and Earl Lindo and guitarist Willie Lindo is kept under close watch by the great Sly Dunbar. The drummer's playing is effortless as he alternates the makeup of a particular pattern or subtly changes up the rhythm, heading into a chorus. Closer attention to the backing for tracks like "Behold," "Tell Me Where You Get It," and "Vacancy" reveals the sort of strength, though subtle, that drives the best roots music.

blue highlight denotes track pick