Single Review: “Culture Riddem – Tribute To Joseph Hill” (Kenyatta Hill)
Reggae fans will recognize the name Joseph Hill, to whom the albums I am reviewing is tributed by his son Kenyatta Hill. In case you don’t recall, Joseph Hill was one of the singers and songwriter from the iconic Jamaican trio Culture.
In my teenage years I listened a lot of Reggae, including Culture. One of my favorite Culture tracks back then was “Psalm of Bob Marley” (Tube on the left).
Over time I started listening more Jazz and less Reggae and I lost track what happened with bands like Culture. I just Googled Joseph Hill, who came to symbolize the face of Culture, and found out he died in Berlin, Germany on 19 August 2006 while the group was on tour, collapsing following a performance. His son, Kenyatta Hill, who had acted as the group’s sound engineer on tour became the lead singer of Culture.
When I just came across a new release by Kenyata Hill I was curious. How does Kenyata actually sing?
I always prefer Reggae to be sang by a Jamaican singer. There is a “rustiness” – or perhaps “smokiness” would be a nice choice of words ha! – in the timbre of the voices of the better Jamaican singers like: Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Peter Tosh, Winston Rodney (Burning Spear), Alpha Blondy, David Hinds (Steel Pulse), to name a few of my favorites, and the same counted for Joseph Hill. For me the timbre of the vocalist of a Reggae band / album really does “make it or break it”. There are many “white” Reggae bands that sound very well … up to the moment a white singer takes the mic! That’s where I generally “bail out” and look for something else.
What I was pleased to hear when I started listening to the first track was a horn section. For me that always gives Reggae “something extra”, some uplifting energy, but I guess that is because of my history as saxophonist playing in Ska and Reggae bands myself. It always feels empty to me, a band without horn section (not only in Reggae, but in general actually).
After track #1 had finished – it sounded like a promising start of the album – I got a little exited about finding this album, until track two had started playing … “Huh?” I thought … “Didn’t I not just hear that same horn riff in the track that I just listened too? Perhaps they just repeated it in track #2 as a little joke?” I checked, did – by some weird “hick-up” of the bandcamp player – the first track play a second time? No, it was really track #2.
The sad truth sank in when I clicked on track #3 … once again with the same horn section. And not just that, I realized it was the same track, all 13 tracks of the album, the same, with only different featuring vocalists – as it turned out – and different lyrics and titles. What a disappointment! How did Kenyata even come to the idea to “tribute” this release to his father? Did Joseph not deserve more? If I had actually purchased the whole album I would have felt “robbed”! There you think you buy a 13-track album but actually end up with a “single” …
So … instead of calling this an “album review” it would be better just to call it a “single review“. A single with 13 variants of the same song.
That does save me some time writing this article though – always try to look at things from the bright side – right? No need to review all 13 variants on this release. *grin* … But, since I started with this review already, lets share a few more words about it …
The only track with only a track title, no name of a featuring singer was version #4, “More Vacancy“. I therefor presume this is the only track version Kenyata actually sang himself? So, how did he do? Now, Kenyata being the son of Joseph … the apple and the tree? I was pleased to hear Kenyata has that “Jamaican timbre” as well. His voice isn’t as similar to his fathers as with Bob and Ziggy Marley, but close enough to Joseph to hear some family resemblance. Kenyata’s voice in “More Vacancy” is a little warmer, a little less “rusty”, but has that nice “edge” to it as well.
“More Vacancy” (track 4)
It’s a pretty nice track overall. A proper “traditional” sounding Reggae track. Well played, well sung, well sounding.
There are fortunately 2 versions on the album that do stand out a little more from the rest, the last two tracks. Track #12 – this version is named “World Revolution” featuring Navisa Yasmin & Jade Tremba. It’s the only version with female vocals. And last but not least, track version #13, a Dub version called “Culture Riddem – INSTRUMENTAL”
“World Revolution” (track 12)
“Culture Riddem – INSTRUMENTAL” (track 13)
I don’t see any reason for you – visitor of this blog article – to check all other versions. Unless you would be fan of one of the other 12 featuring vocalists: Anthony B [#1), Luciano [#2], Perfect Giddimani [#3], Christos DC [#5], Nestor (Nonpalidece) [#6], Tomawok [#7], Dada Yute [#8], Nick Sefakis [#9], General Zooz [#10], Scotty P & Lenny Kurlou [#11].
I guess I have been “neglecting” the Reggae scene too long, but I have no clue who those featuring singers are. In case you do know and like one in particular, then visit the complete album via the bandcamp.com link below. Otherwise I suggest you don’t waste your time, after listening to those 3 versions shared above in this article you have practically heard them all.
Even though the tracks all sound fine, I would not buy the whole album … if I may make a suggestion … Just pick one – even at random – and perhaps the Dub (#13).