Saturday, August 10, 2013

Classic Album Review: Peter Tosh – Equal Rights (1977)

Like his friend and fellow Wailers collaborator Bob Marley, Peter Tosh was fated to depart this earth long before he was supposed to, shot dead in his own home, in execution fashion, when an attempted robbery went tragically wrong back in 1987. But unlike Marley, Tosh has not been bestowed the acclaim or posthumous legendary status his wider body of work would suggest he deserves.

Having split from Bob and the Wailers in 1974, Tosh released his debut solo album Legalize It in 1976, with the title track going on to become something of a staunch pro-weed anthem for every subsequent generation of smoker. Such was its universal appeal, Legalize It consequently became the album most often associated with Peter Tosh, and while it is pretty darn good, it isn’t (in my opinion) his best solo work … step forward, Equal Rights, Tosh’s 1977 follow-up.

There are two immediately identifiable characteristics to be found in Tosh’s music – the first being that powerful and compelling baritone. Always forceful and utterly persuasive, Tosh’s vocal leaves the listener in no doubt he actually believes every word he sings.

The second key element is the lyrics; anti-establishment, militant, political, with a strong spiritual undercurrent never too far from the surface, Tosh pretty much always dealt issues close to his heart. Important stuff like Rastafari, equality, race, unity, and um, weed. Equal Rights is chock full of these themes.

But even if it wasn’t, and Tosh had decided to sing about other issues, perhaps if he’d offered us an occasional lovers track – something that Bob Marley doubtlessly identified as being pivotal to his own commercial success – none of it would have detracted from the quality of the sounds underpinning the lyrics on Equal Rights.
That’s due, in the main, to a supporting cast of musicians that reads like a Who’s Who of Seventies Jamaican reggae – not least the likes of Sly Dunbar (drums), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), and fellow onetime Wailers, Bunny Wailer (backing vocals), Carlton Barrett (drums) and Al Anderson (guitar). A virtual roots reggae supergroup. Production comes from Tosh himself.

A 2011 deluxe, or “legacy” edition, included seven additional tracks, plus a second disc of various dubplate and dub versions. A stone cold roots classic.

Highlights: ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, ‘Downpressor Man’, ‘Stepping Razor’, ‘Equal Rights’, ‘Apartheid’.
Here's the title track:

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