Ras Records (

cd cover After an average live album in 1999, reggae greats Culture come up fighting in the new millennium with a great CD of conscious roots rhythms. Joe Hill and company remind us that melodious music need not be 'value-free' or shallow. In fact, every tune on the album is political in one way or another, and most of them are fantastic music as well.

The title track cues up first, opening with a distorted electric guitar vamp on the "Stars and Stripes" before bouncing into an upbeat, mid-tempo reggae anthem. Over the pulsing bass, Hill asks with conviction when the payday will come for former slaves; accentuated with a catchy keyboard lick and intermittent chorus, this smooth gem is destined to become a classic. Ironically, later in the disk is an equally good song where we find Hill demanding that the listener stop begging and "Do Something For Yourself." The driving beat matches the command to "rise up and work" perfectly, and well-applied horns punctuate the command impeccably. Culture hits other favorite themes: "Election" is a slow plea for politicians to leave the people to their peace, and on "Legalization" Hill returns to a recurring theme, asking why, with all the corruption in the world, a Rasta gets tossed in jail for enjoying his favorite herb. And considering how important delivering a conscious message is to this band, Ras records has made great use of their website by publishing the full lyrics to the songs, a use other labels ought to emulate. - Craig Tower

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