Peter Tosh - The Toughest
"Featuring the Wailers, Skatalites, Upsetters". This 19 track CD consists of 2 parts: track 1 to 13 are "the Coxsone years" and the rest is "the Lee Perry years". Studio One, 1963 to 1966. A claim from the linernotes: "This compilation of Peter's work for the producers Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd and Lee Perry is very nearly a complete overview of Tosh's recordings for them."
Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingstone and Bob Marley were looking for a third singer to complement their voices, and the person they found was a musician with a deep baritone. A musician, guitar player who could also play piano, who later also recorded as a session musician on numerous Reggae albums. A singer too and the Wailers were indeed a great vocal trio where Bob Marley was the natural lead and Peter Tosh dark, low and raw voice made a great backing. Peter Tosh was also a strong politically motivated person, on social and racial issues, and being fairly radical. (The definition of politics or radical isn't fixed in general of course and it's impossible to know exactly what it meant on 1960's Jamaica but it's likely Peter Tosh would be a political radical today too.)
This also leads to the sadness that is Peter Tosh: beatings by the police while in custody severely harmed his fingers (and thus his guitar playing) and in 1987 he was shot in his own home in what's called a robbery.
What's not interesting about this release? You may have many tracks already as some can be found on cheap Wailers or reggae compilations. A focus on Peter Tosh in his early years can't possibly be as interesting as a compilation of his solo years. If it shows one thing it's that Peter Tosh was a good singer but Bob Marley was the best vocalist of the Wailers.
So then, what is interesting about this release? 19 tracks by one of the most influential Jamaican artists, produced by two of the most influential Jamaican producers from one of the most formative periods of Jamaican music. A side by side comparison of Coxsone and Scratch, starting with ska tracks moving into the world of rocksteady. Did I tell you that Bob Marley is a great singer? He sure is, on numerous backing vocals. The temperament of Peter Tosh can be heard in a gospel like 'Sinner Man' or a political song like '400 Years' and it makes for unforgettable performances. He re-recorded a few tracks for solo albums, the originals are on this release. A collection focused on the work of Tosh brings out the talent of Peter Tosh which otherwise blends in with the Wailers' recordings. And it's just a good set of great songs.
This set's compiled by Coxsone and Chris Wilson. The linernotes contain a short bio about Tosh, very interesting background information on the songs, a list of musicians and a few pictures. Good package, easily one of the better productions. If you're interested in purchasing this CD, pay attention since there are more Peter Tosh releases under the name "The Toughest". Despite its age it's still not cheap afaik.
Heartbeat / Rounder, 1996
Peter Tosh - The Toughest