The Nighthawk Recordings from Omnivore Recordings, released for Record Store Day 2019, is an essential document for anyone who loves Culture and the vocals of the late Joseph Hill. With backing by both Roots Radics and The Wailers band, these recordings from 1981 and 1982 are further proof of the brilliance of Hill and Culture.
"This Time", one of the group's earliest compositions, sees itself fleshed out here in this early Eighties version. The classic song sits nicely next to the lovely "Calling Rastafari" which is a perfect example of the sort of blending of rhetoric and melody that Hill and his band-mates were so good at crafting. Elsewhere, there are four tracks here with backing from The Wailers that are superb, with the two versions here of both "Mister Music" and "Can They Run" adding to the group's already-voluminous and excellent back-catalog. Originally recorded for the Calling Rastafari compilation on the old Nighthawk label, the tapes have thankfully been rescued from the vaults by the folks at Omnivore. The cuts are similar to lots of what Culture recorded in the era, with Joseph Hill deftly blending his sort of smooth performance style with the slicker production one found in those years. This is not to diminish what's here, but to say that Hill was able to adapt his message to the group's progressing sound.
The Nighthawk Recordings is a succinct reminder of the greatness of the late Joseph Hill, along with Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes. The music of Culture remains the sort of thing that can lead even a casual fan into the realm of being a completist, with each song heard making one think, "Hey, I need to get this too!" This is another nice addition to the sort of Culture collection that many of us are building.
The Nighthawk Recordings by Culture is out now via Omnivore Recordings.
[Photo: Leroy Jodie Pierson]