‘Exodus – The Movement Continues’ Bob Marley & The Wailers
‘Heart of the Congos’ The Congos
‘Two Sevens Clash’ Culture
The 7th July 1977 was the time the four seven clashed, a date of prophetical importance for followers of the faith of Rastafari. The significance of which is further alluded to in Big Youth’s ‘Four Sevens’. That means these records have now been enriching my life for 40 years! At the time I probably took it for granted that the classic recordings then pouring from Jamaica would continue to do so indefinitely. With hindsight it’s now clear what a momentous year 1977 was.
“I & I no come to fight flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high and low places.”
Originally released on the 3rd of June Marley’s ‘Exodus’ was eagerly awaited. Following the assassination attempt he and his entourage had decamped to London where they completed the recording of the album. Perhaps his exile from Kingston’s close knit musical community enabled the band to focus more closely on the task in hand. Whatever the cause or reason when the LP was released it struck exactly the note, a perfect blend of rebellious and romantically themed tracks, some originals, some reworking’s and a cover song all mixed in such a way as to appeal to record buyers all over the world. A world that would, through endless touring, be conquered shortly after. The album would become Marley’s ‘Sgt Pepper’ ie the album he would be most closely associated with and was eventually declared by Time magazine to be the album of the century.
“Three kids on the floor, and another one to come make four.”
From a certain perspective The Congos had the perfect career in that they seemed to come from nowhere, created arguably the greatest Roots Reggae album of all then, just as quickly, seemed to disappear. Cedric Myton and Congo Ashanti Roy began recording the album at Lee ’Scratch’ Perry’s legendary Black Ark studio early in 1977 and he it was who augmented the duo’s ethereal voices with the deeper voice of Watty Burnett. The songs, full of Old Testament imagery, are simple, hypnotic and effective. The musical backing laid down by this incarnation of The Upsetters is completely mesmerising and even Scratch, showing relative restraint, turns in a number of disciplined mixes to the various tracks. The results are possibly more astonishing considering that the recording equipment was already considered obsolete several years earlier when it was removed from Dynamic Studio as part of an upgrade. Sadly there would be no sequel as Perry destroyed the studio shortly after. In truth the period of creativity that manifested itself in a series of classic albums by the likes of the Heptones, Max Romeo, Junior Murvin, and his own Super Ape (along with countless single releases) could probably no longer be sustained.
“Calling Rastafari, calling Rastafari, for I and for I.”
Joseph Hill, Culture’s motive force, had recorded a few tracks at Coxone’s Studio One which hadn’t gained much traction. Following the then current trend for vocal harmony groups Hill drafted in Kenneth Paley and his cousin Albert Walker and together began writing and rehearsing material that would eventually form the seminal album ‘Two Sevens Clash’. Recorded at Joe Gibbs studio on Retirement Crescent by Errol Thompson the album was another offering which drew its inspiration from the Old Testament. Errol Thompson was a very different producer from Lee Perry and at first the up-beat, almost popular feel to the musical backing tracks on Two Sevens seems slightly incongruous given the dread Biblical themes of the lyrics but Culture at Joe Gibbs were, like the Congos at the Black Ark, in exactly the right place at the right time. Gibb’s house band, The Professionals were led by Lloyd Parks and all members were accomplished musicians their own right with a wealth of experience to draw on. The riddims were a perfect accompaniment to Joe Hills’s infectious exuberance. Though they would release several other great albums and would remain a popular act on the concert circuit they would never again scale the giddy heights they achieved with ‘Two Sevens’.
Happily for music lovers everywhere, to mark the anniversary Universal have issued a three disc celebration of Marley’s album entitled ‘Exodus 40: The Movement Continues’. The first disc contains ‘Exodus’ in all its glory, the second sees Marley’s son Ziggy give the original album a remix and a more contemporary feel. While serving to remind us how great The Wailers were live, the third disc contains previously unreleased versions of many of the songs from the album recorded over the 1st. 3rd. and 4th. June 1977, at London’s Rainbow Theatre. Incorporating some rare and fine photographs the set is handsomely packaged as you might expect from Universal and is a worthy addition to any collection.
VP Records are responsible for a three disc and a two disc commemorative re-issue of both the Congos and Culture’s watershed albums, collating many rare and unreleased alternate takes and versions. We can only wonder what the record companies will come up with in ten years’ time to further entice us older hands to buy the same albums over again and to keep this music available for subsequent generations.