CD Review: Peter Tosh, I Am That I Am

Peter Tosh coverPeter Tosh
[JAD Records]

This all-acoustic Peter Tosh live set is a necessity–another gem in the swelling catalogue of rare Wailers recordings that keep surfacing from some shady and forgotten corner of Jamaican studios past. Never just a retread of the familiar, the songs of Peter, Bunny, and Bob attain a simplified urgency when stripped down to six-strings, becoming tender, yet more soulful, burning and classic. I Am That I Am features some of Peter’s most fiery songs and two new ones, plus interviews from the reggae star, from two mid-70’s radio recordings in the U.S.

Tosh’s complex moods are revealed more clearly on this set than in film or print. Although feared by the Babylon “shitstem” as an aggressive militant, sweetness and intense reason ring in his voice. He speaks his own language with wit, humor, and reflection, firing off tirades on his life, police brutality, “politricks,” religion, herb, history, poverty, and spiritual wickedness. He comes across as a man of pure dignity and strength with the perspective of a persecuted bush doctor that is dead right more often than not. The songs are of course to behold–“Jah Guide,” “Mark of the Beast,” “Stop That Train,” and the worldwide hit “Legalize It,” rank among many highlights.

His voice, defiant while delicate, suddenly booms that thunderous, warm baritone, spreading deep conviction with a balance of raw grace and angelic harmony. The self-taught guitar work is skilled and emotional. Many have tried to dissect the towering legend of Peter Tosh, but this collection of solid unplugged tunes and personal chats does it the only way possible, by the man himself in his own powerful words.

 




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