Tag Archives: Peter Tosh

Epic Bunny Wailer compilations – collecting almost two decades of singles

The Wailers is mainly synonymous with Bob Marley since he used the name for his backing band, but initially it was a trio comprising founding members Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh are by far the most widely known and their musical legacy have been collected and reissued countless of times in an almost endless stream of different packaging. With Bunny Wailer however there’s a slightly different story.

He has always seemed if not shy, but reluctant to the spotlight. His music has done most of the talking so to say. But an important part of his musical legacy has been hard – and expensive – to find. His major label releases – including his classic and complex debut album Blackheart Man – have been rather easy to lay hands on, but his singles on his own imprint Solomonic didn’t have proper distribution and were mostly released only in Jamaica.

They are every bit as great as the Blackheart Man album and has now been collected on two soon to be classic compilations titled Tread Along 1969-1976 and Rise & Shine 1977-1986. Both are put out by Dub Store Records, a label that started working with Bunny Wailer – the last surviving member of The Wailers – in 2010. They have prior to these two beautiful sets reissued a selection of his earliest recordings for the Solomonic label. Now they have taken another step forward together putting out these timeless and often political, educational and spiritual recordings.

The albums together collect a hefty 29 cuts with a large number of masterpieces included, and when listening to both sets after one another one can follow how Bunny Wailer developed both his song writing and vocal style. It’s a fascinating, laidback journey where Bunny Wailer fights against Babylonian wrongdoings with music and lyrics as his weapons.

The Wailers importance in reggae and popular music can’t be overstated and if Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were roaring advocates for unity, equality and the legislation of marijuana – maybe Peter more than Bob though – Bunny Wailer has always been quietly ferocious with apocalyptic messages and a mystical and transcendental sonic landscape. And many of these marvellous songs – classics, long lost gems, dub versions and instrumentals – are now finally readily available.

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Boiling ska and romatic ballads on The Wailers’ debut album

WailingWailers_COVERIf you have been into reggae for a while you’ll probably know about producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and his studio and label Studio One. If you are collecting reggae records you’ll probably also know that Studio One records are highly sought after. You’ll need to have an abyssal wallet to buy the originals, which you often need, because several Studio One records haven’t been properly reissued for many years. Some have never been reissued.

But now things might change since Studio One has started a reissue program together with U.S. based Yep Roc Music Group. The first release is The Wailers’ debut album The Wailing Wailers, a set originally released in 1965. The album comes with the original cover art and track listing and is sourced from the Jamaican master tapes.

The Wailers recorded about 100 songs at Studio One and The Wailing Wailers collects twelve of those. It’s a collection of dance scorchers and pleading love songs heavily influenced by vintage R&B and doo wop backed by some of Jamaica’s greatest musicians ever – The Skatalites.

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, aka The Wailers, would later – together as well as solo artists – re-record several of the songs featured on this album. Put It On and One Love are stone-cold classics classics, but usually not the versions here. Tracks like those – along with Simmer Down and Rude Boy – show a glimpse of what was to come from one of the most important groups in music history.

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Many friends on new Peter Tosh compilation

2237_PeterTosh_CoverListening to the latest Peter Tosh compilation Peter Tosh & Friends – An Upsetters Showcase. This 15 track set is described as a Peter Tosh compilation, but there are a lot of friends and only five of the 15 songs are by the man himself. The other ten tracks are singles from the likes of pioneering deejays U Roy and Big Youth along with the gritty Carl Dawkins and the soulful, and underrated, Dave Barker.

All tracks are however produced by the Upsetter himself and during the period covered on this album Lee Perry recorded some of his best work, including Bob Marley & The Wailers’ post-Studio One and pre-Island days.

All songs on this compilation has been reissued before and several are available on Trojan’s six disc compilation Bob Marley & The Wailers Complete Upsetter Collection. Nothing wrong with reissuing these fine tracks again and making them easily available, but the title could be more accurate.

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Peter Tosh – a myth unveiled

untitledWhen you hear the name The Wailers, you’ll probably immediately think about Bob Marley. For many he’s the original Wailer and The Wailers are often recognized as his backing band.

But that’s wrong, of course. The original Wailers were a quartet and later a trio consisting of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. They split up in the early 70s and went their separate ways. Bob Marley became a superstar and a spokesman for all things reggae. Bunny Wailer kept a rather low profile and let his music do all the talking.

Peter Tosh was far from quiet, something that’s evident after you’ve read John Masouri’s Steppin’ Razor: The Life of Peter Tosh. This biography covers the life of a sometimes overlooked superstar.

Through his music and in interviews he gave the poor a voice. He often spoke passionately about equality and justice. He stirred up controversy with his outspoken lyrics and tunes like Oh Bumbo Klaat, Legalize It and the funky Buk-In-Hamm Palace.

But being the voice of the poor and criticizing the system and politicians can be dangerous, as Peter Tosh experienced firsthand. He was physically assaulted by the police in Jamaica and he was verbally abused by the media, particularly by rock critics in the UK.

But Peter Tosh was a rebel. He had his principles and would never go against them. He had his own game and his own set of rules. He played by them. Like it or not.

Peter Tosh also had a big ego, and over the years he lost faith in the music business and his Rolling Stones-owned label. He became disappointed in the lack of success and disillusioned by bureaucracy and the media that never fully understood him nor his music or mission.

Down the road things started to go wrong. Terribly wrong. His friends didn’t recognize him and his erratic behavior got increasingly worse. Whether this is due to an extreme amount of high grade ganja consumption, or Marlene Brown, a girlfriend described as something of a Yoko Ono for Peter Tosh, is unclear.

But according to several sources in the well-researched book she’s to blame for much that went wrong in the later parts of Peter Tosh’s life. She’s described as the reason for his demise and eventually his untimely death at the age of 42.

Peter Tosh was murdered in his home in Jamaica. Not by Marlene Brown. The motive behind the murder is blurry, but there are several theories of which one is about money.

He was an angry man and a highly complex individual with both a militant and a spiritual side. To this day and while he was still alive, he was in the constant shadow of Bob Marley; partly because his music was not as uplifting and direct as Bob Marley’s, but his lyrics were also darker and more controversial.

Peter Tosh struggled all his life, something that becomes apparent when reading the book. He was a charismatic protest singer of a kind that is rarely seen or heard today, and during his too short life he was on a mission. He was a musical outlaw that fought for freedom and promoted the herb. Not loved by all, and hated by some. Particularly the system, or shit-stem as Peter Tosh used to say.

But that was him. A man with a misson. A man on a mission. And a man that stood up for what he believed in, regardless who he would provoke.

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Bushman is the Bush Doctor

Tribute albums are not particularly common in reggae music. And I am not that fond the idea either. It is often hard to make justice to the original versions. But sometimes you get surprised. The new album from BushmanBushman Sings the Bush Doctor: A Tribute to Peter Tosh – is one such.

The late Peter Tosh was part of the original Wailers in the 60’s and early 70’s. But he and Bunny Wailer left and started their own solo careers. Peter Tosh had done some recording on his own prior to his demise from the group, for example Them A Fe Get A Beatin’ and Maga Dog for producer Joe Gibbs. He had also proven himself to be a great lyricist and songwriter in the Wailers.

I have always thought that Peter Tosh has been put in shadow compared to Bob Marley – of course – and Bunny Wailer. His first two albums Legalize It and Equal Rights are downright excellent.

Therefore I think that Bushman has chosen a great artist to pay tribute to. And he does it very well. Bushman’s deep, sometimes nicely nonchalant, tenor voice suits Tosh’s militant compositions very well. Bushman is not as rugged as Tosh, but it is compensated by sincerity and soulfulness.

Bushman Sings the Bush Doctor: A Tribute to Peter Tosh is mainly produced by Donovan Germain, always a safe card for great production. And this album is no exception. The production is warm and modern, but still close to the original versions. Maybe because some foundation musicians are involved.

Bushman has chosen 15 compositions for this album, mainly taken from Tosh’s’ albums in the 70’s. Some are expected, like classics Legalize It and Downpresser Man, while other choices are more surprising.

The bubbling disco groove in Buk-In-Hamm Palace is one of Tosh’s more accessible moments and Bushman’s version just toughens the bass line a bit. On the soul drenched and upbeat Don’t Look Back, originally performed by The Temptations, Bushman has invited Tarrus Riley, instead of Mick Jagger as Tosh did. Luckily enough the 80’s sounding sax solo is still with us.

Even though the track list is exquisite I miss tunes such as Burial and I am the Toughest, another of Tosh’s signature tunes.

This is surely a great album and an impressive tribute to one of the many greats of reggae music.

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Därför lyckades Bob Marley

Bob Marley är utan tvekan världens mest kända reggaeartist. Reggaemani har läst ett gäng Bob Marley-biografier och listat ut några av ingredienserna i hans framgångsrecept.

Desmond Dekker, Millie Small, Jimmy Cliff, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy och Sean Paul är alla reggaeartister med världshits i bagaget. Men trots stora framgångar är de inte i närheten av Bob Marleys stjärnstatus på den internationella musikscenen.

Att Bob Marley blev en stor stjärna berodde på ett antal viktiga faktorer. Han var perfektionist, en fantastisk låtskrivare som omgav sig med duktiga musiker och hade dessutom oslagbar karisma.

Men det var ett strategiskt avgörande beslut i London 1972 som förändrade Bob Marleys framtid dramatiskt. The Wailers hade gett ut singeln Reggae On Broadway på skivbolaget CBS och var i London för att marknadsföra den.

Men den sålde inte.

Frustrerad bestämde sig Bob Marley för att knacka på hos Chris Blackwell, ägare av skivbolaget Island (framgångsrikt med soundtracket till reggaerullen The Harder They Come). Marknadsföringsgeniet Chris Blackwell, delvis uppvuxen på Jamaica, förstod reggaemusik men även vad den vita rockpubliken ville ha. Han fattade tycke för Bob Marley, såg möjligheterna och signade bandet.

De två första The Wailers-plattorna på Island – Catch A Fire och Burnin’ – blev hyggliga framgångar, men det var när Peter Tosh och Bunny Wailer lämnade gruppen som det tog fart på allvar för Bob Marley.

Bredare sound
Han tog in de gospelinfluerade sångerskorna i the I-Threes och arbetade med gitarrister med tydliga rock- och bluesinfluenser. Amerikanerna Al Anderson, Don Kinsey och Junior Marvin blev en stor del i Bob Marleys nya och lite rockigare sound.

Turnéer
Nu ensam frontman började Bob Marley att turnera som en galning, varje platta följdes av långa turnéer i bland annat Europa och USA.

Budskap till media
Vid varje skivsläpp tog Bob Marley sig tid till att prata med media, och hade tydliga budskap om jämlikhet och mänskliga rättigheter. Han var en motpol till diskons dekadens, och medierna tog honom varmt till sina hjärtan. Detta hade en klar effekt på reggaemusikens ökade popularitet.

Även om Bob Marley hade koll på det mesta, fick han draghjälp av några slumpmässiga händelser. Eric Claptons rosade cover på I Shot the Sheriff kom lägligt sommaren 1974, och skakade av sig strålglans på Bob Marley som just skulle göra solokarriär. Även mordförsöket i december 1976 påverkade såväl image som låtskrivande i en positiv riktning.

Det är omöjligt att säga om reggaen någonsin kommer att föda en stjärna som Bob Marley igen. Garnett Silk nämndes på 90-talet som en efterträdare, men gick hastigt bort i en olycka 1994. I dag kan jag inte se någon tydlig tronarvinge, utan förutspår att dagens största stjärnor – som Sean Paul, Sizzla och Buju Banton – inte har en chans att slå igenom Bob Marley-style. De saknar helt enkelt hans kombination av karisma, viktiga budskap och förståelse för hur medierna skapar stjärnor.

Vill du läsa mer om Bob Marley rekommenderar jag biografierna Bob Marley – Conquering Lion of Reggae av Stephen Davis och Catch A Fire: The Life Of Bob Marley av Timothy White.

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Marijuanadoftande favoriter

784För en tid sedan skrev jag om gräsliga skivomslag. Reggaen är fylld med referenser till marijuana, och det gäller naturligtvis inte bara skivomslagen. Texter samt låt- och skivtitlar kryllar av referenser till rastafarireligionens egen huskur.

De mest kända marijuanahyllningarna är sannolikt Legalize it och Bush Doctor med Peter Tosh samt Kaya med Bob Marley, Pass the Koutchie med Mighty Diamonds och Under Mi Sensi med Barrington Levy. Alla fantastiska låtar med propagandaliknande hyllningar.

Det verkar finnas en konsensus bland merparten av alla reggaeartister att marijuana fixar det mesta. Enligt Peter Tosh är gräs exempelvis bra mot influensa, astma och tuberkulos. Lone Ranger menar att marijuana bidrar till att man lever längre och att cigaretter bara ger dålig andedräkt.

De flesta reggaeartister har någon gång i karriären spelat in en marijuanahyllning. Men det finns en person som faktiskt går mot mängden – Dennis Brown. Ryktet säger att han aldrig rökte gräs under hela sin karriär. Kikar man på låttitlarna och lyssnar på texterna så verkar det faktiskt stämma. Därför är det tragiskt när han istället blir beroende av crack, ett beroende som sägs vara anledningen till hans alldeles för tidiga död vid 42 års ålder.

Det finns gott om makalöst bra reggaelåtar med marijuanatema. Jag har satt ihop en topp 20-lista, utan rangordning, med några personliga favoriter. Klicka på länken nedan så kan du ladda in en spellista i Spotify med de låtar som finns tillgängliga.

Ganja Traffic – Rappa Robert (1982)

Pass the Koutchie – Mighty Diamonds (1981)

Ganja Farmer – Marlon Asher (2006)

Ganja Smuggling – Eek-A-Mouse (1981)

Tired fi Lick Weed in a Bush – Jacob Miller (1976)

Legalize the National Herb – Lone Ranger (1982)

The International Herb – Culture (1979)

Sensi – Gyptian (2006)

It a Fi Burn – Josey Wales (1983)

100 Weight of Collie Weed – Carlton Livingston (1984)

My Grade – Da’Ville (2005)

Leave the Trees – Chezidek (2004)

Herbsman – Andy Capp & King Stitt (1970)

Chalice in the Palace – U-Roy (1975)

Mariwana – Soul Syndicate (1977)

One Draw – Rita Marley (1980)

Chalice – Charlie Chaplin (1983-1985)

Lamb’s Bread International – Welton Irie (1977-1978)

Feeling High – The Pioneers (1978)

Ashanti Ganja Dub – Leslie Butler (1975)

http://open.spotify.com/user/erikma/playlist/1YHqAB96iSfouGBDDh7zig

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