The Essential Peter Tosh: The Columbia Years
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
Between the time that he left the Wailers in 1975 and his murder in 1987, Peter Tosh had a horribly inconsistent solo career, which sullied his reputation with more downs than ups. His first two outings Legalize It and Equal Rights, however, were without question his finest efforts, even if they both were largely overshadowed by the work of Bob Marley. It was this rivalry with his former bandmate that frequently weighed upon Tosh’s mind while also driving him forward. Though he didn’t ever back down from making political statements through his music — much more than Marley — he sometimes struggled with doing so at the expense of his popularity, occasionally tempering himself and forcing unnecessary pop fingerprints upon his songs.
Fortunately, the recently released The Essential Peter Tosh: The Columbia Years focuses on Tosh’s strengths rather than his weaknesses. It plucks twelve tracks from his first two albums — both of which are absolute gems — and this material is augmented with a pair of live cuts culled from the posthumously unearthed concert recording Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976. The songs run the gamut from pro-marijuana fare (Legalize It) to a call for community unity (African) to a plea for justice (Equal Rights), and most of the tunes weave a thread of anger and rage that slips beneath the optimistic, sun-baked grooves.
Much like the blues, reggae is a fairly simple song structure. Consequently, many are able to perform it, but few can truly do it justice. The Essential Peter Tosh: The Columbia Years is a perfect testament to the fact that Tosh stood right beside Marley as one of reggae’s greatest artists. He was a brilliant songwriter who sought to enlighten and change the world. Was this an ambitious goal? Perhaps. But it was a noble one, nonetheless, and more often than not, he proved that infectious rock and social activism could go hand in hand.
The Essential Peter Tosh: The Columbia Years is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box