Sunday, June 17, 2012
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PETER TOSH - 1978 - 1987
What you get is everything Tosh did from 1978 on, every album and single track, lots of extended and dub versions, a handful of non-LP discoveries, and a full, previously unreleased BBC In Concert show from 1983. The bulk is from five official studio and one live album during this period. Unfortunately, that doesn't include his best two solo albums, recorded after leaving The Wailers, Legalize It and Equal Rights. Instead it picks up when Tosh signed with Rolling Stones Records, distributed by EMI, thanks to his friendship with Mick and Keith.
The first album, Bush Doctor, featured both Stones in supporting role, Jagger doing his famous cameo on the cover of The Temptations' Don't Look Back. Oddly, this somewhat odd cover choice became his biggest solo hit, hardly representative of his career, but it did point to a sad truth; Tosh wanted success, sales, and notice. He battled with his record labels over perceived lack of support, and compromised his music with choices made for commercial reasons. Examples litter these albums, including the annoying cover of Johnny B. Goode, and the reggae-disco number Nothing But Love, a deserved bomb.
Trouble is, Tosh could really sing, and was an excellent songwriter, plus he was a hardcore political writer, tackling apartheid, nuclear weapons, equal rights, and of course, legalizing marijuana. He was aware people didn't know he was responsible for lots of the politics and some of the songs that made Marley famous while he was still in the band, including Get Up, Stand Up, and Stop That Train. Too bad he tried to gain a wider audience with junk instead of his good stuff. On each album there are more good songs than poor, but they all feel marred. Another problem is the production, way too studio-perfect for reggae, with lots of annoying synths and syndrums and such.
The live albums showcase a much better side of him, as always leading a crack band and displaying his excellent pipes. Although a slick synth is still there on some keyboard parts, hearing a big band and lots of vocalists puts a lot more power in these songs, especially as he reclaims Get Up, Stand Up on both the hour-long concerts found here.
So, it's a bit of overkill here, and an argument can be made for chopping out a lot of crap here, leaving the full live concerts and the hard-to-find stuff, making it a four-disc box, and including a decent book instead of the lousy one-page essay and bare-bones credits. However, you can't argue with the price, $36.39 at Amazon right now, and that they used 2002 Abbey Road remasters. You probably want to be a big reggae fan though, rather than somebody who only owns Marley's Legend.