This originally ran in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1996.
Peter Tosh, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, was
a foundation member of the Wailers back in 1963. He is truly
one of reggae music's all-time greats and "The Toughest," a
new 18 song CD on the Heartbeat label, showcases the
majority of his earliest work.
The first 13 tracks encompass all but two of Tosh's
recordings for Clement Dodd at Studio One. These collector
items begin with "Hoot Nanny Hoot" and roll through "Maga
Dog" (with the interesting use of the "Simmer Down" rhythm
at its outset), "Shame and Scandal," "Sinner Man," The
Temptation's "Don't Look Back" and the title track. Each
song is a ska or rock steady scorcher; a reminder of
Jamaica's sizzling sounds from over thirty years ago.
The remaining six tunes come from Tosh's work with
producer Lee Perry. The music is raw, hypnotic and offbeat,
and shows how reggae sounded during its infancy in the
latter part of the '60s. The tracks include "Rightful Ruler"
(featuring U-Roy's first vocal effort), "400 years," "No
Sympathy," "Downpresser" and two versions of "Brand New
Secondhand." Harmonies from Bunny and Bob compliment Tosh's
baritone, and many of Jamaica's premiere musicians help make
these sounds remain timeless.
Peter Tosh was much more than just a member of reggae's
greatest supergroup; he was also a proficient guitarist and
exceptional solo artist whose life was unfortunately cut
short during an apparent robbery attempt in 1987. "The
Toughest" thankfully brings us this man's beginnings in a
well-packaged, comprehensive disc containing many songs
unavailable for decades. This important release is essential
for all serious reggae fans.
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