Culture

Live in Africa

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Although Culture started out in the mid-'70s as an archetypal reggae harmony trio, the group has long since dropped all pretense of group identity and the name is now synonymous with lead singer and songwriter Joseph Hill (this despite the fact that his cousin, Albert Walker, a founding member of the group, is still with him; the third vocal position has been a revolving door throughout Culture's 25-year career). This live album is actually the soundtrack to a concert film of the group's 2000 performance in Capetown, South Africa. The sound quality is good and the set list is exactly what you'd expect, with a hearty helping of songs from the band's halcyon days (including "International Herb," "Too Long in Slavery," and the inevitable "Two Sevens Clash") along with some of Hill's better compositions of the 1990s (including the excellent "Payday"). "Never Get Weary Yet" is given a lovely gospel-nyahbinghi treatment. Between songs, Hill unburdens himself of sentiments both sensible ("Turn off the TV!") and absurd ("If I was here five years ago you wouldn't have a war!"). Overall, it's a fairly enjoyable listening experience, though it suffers from what sounds like a certain degree of professional detachment. The band has the charts down cold and sounds like its phoning them in, and Hill himself is clearly going through the motions on perfunctory renditions of "Jah Jah See Them a Come" and "Ganja Time." Which is too bad, because "Jah Jah See Them a Come," in particular, deserves better. A lack of magic isn't the worst thing in a live album, but it's one more reason to make sure you own Two Sevens Clash, International Herb, and Cumbolo before you invest in this one.

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