Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peter Tosh Equal Rights 1977

Anybody can make a list. Top ten, even top five (which is clearly a better choice than ten). I'm talking about going out on a limb here. Best Reggae record ever.

Now I know I should pick a Marley album, although for me number two is probably The Heptones Night Food, then maybe either a Marley record or Bunny Wailer's Blackheart Man. But when it comes right down to a perfect example of the Reggae form, Peter Tosh's Equal Rights is the bomb.

It opens with Tosh's version of Get Up, Stand Up, and this version wins on perfect hypnotic reggae rhythm and Tosh's soulful baritone. Downpressor Man follows, and it's another deep groove. I Am That I Am does it again, and then Stepping Razor finishes side one with an incredible quick-paced reggae with a threatening lyric that Tosh dares you not to believe, over a rhythm laid down by Sly and Robbie that is sheer perfection. "If you wanna live, treat me good, I'm like a stepping razor, I'm dangerous."

Side two breaks with Equal Rights, a slow jam with a fine political message, and another deep groove. The thing that makes this record so good is the instrumentation and the abundant talent and focus of the players. Tosh seems to evoke inspired performances from the entire troupe, and the little percussion effects everywhere and harmonies add layers on top of the already thick reggae stew. The band is built around Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare's rhythm, with Al Anderson's guitar and Tyrone Downie's keyboards, and Bunny Wailer singing backups. Skully's additional percussion is perfect. African, Jah Guide, and Apartheid all continue the high quality (and politically charged) songwriting, singing and musicianship, making this a rare Reggae (or any other genre) record indeed, without a single weak track.

The grooves are as deep as James Brown's funk at it's seventies best. The recording is super. The sound is great. Tosh made some great records after this, and before with the Wailers, but this is the pinnacle of his work, and at least in my view, the best Reggae record ever.

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