Peter Tosh – Legalize It: Legacy Edition + Equal Rights: Legacy Edition

January 01, 1970



As the musician was a staunch advocate of The National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws (aka NORML) and the total decriminalization of the ganja
smoke during his life, one could hypothesize how Peter Tosh would felt about
how far America has come in terms of the social tolerance for the good old
“Mother Nature” had he survived the senseless execution-style
assassination attempt on September 11, 1987 (during a home invasion gone awry).  We’re not Amsterdam yet by any stretch of the
imagination. But given the fact that TV shows and films like Weeds, Dazed and Confused, Half-Baked and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle are
on regular rotation in households across the nation, weed dispensaries are
popping up like 7-Elevens in California, and the use of pot for medicinal
purposes is becoming commonplace for everything from cancer to glaucoma, it is
certain Mr. Tosh would have been satisfied with such semblances of progress,
albeit with the presumptive mindset they were kick-started about a
quarter-century late.


The former Wailer made no airs about his demands to
“Legalize It” in his music, as can be heard on the immortal Minister
of Herb’s groundbreaking 1976 solo debut, which has been given the Legacy
Edition treatment from his first American label as a solo artist, Columbia
Records. Spearheaded by its call-to-bongs title track and controversial cover
art depicting him smoking a bowl amidst a crop of sticky icky, Legalize It emerged three years after
the split of the original Wailers. Compounding the drama, the LP was also
released opposite his two former bandmates’ own groundbreaking studio endeavors
in Bunny Wailer’s epic Blackheart Man and
Bob Marley’s sole Top Ten LP, Rastaman
(not to mention in the wake of a tragic auto accident that killed
his girlfriend Evonne and fractured Tosh’s skull, causing what some believed to
be an unchecked brain injury). And while Bunny and Bob were both involved in
the album’s creation, with Wailer contributing background vocals on four cuts and
Marley sharing songwriting credits on the poignant “Why Must I Cry”
as well as lending a hand on the financial side of things, much of Legalize It was cast beneath the shadow
of Tosh’s frustration over the break-up of his longtime partnership with both
men that dates back to 1963.


Yet for the instances of combative emotions that may have
existed within the kinky grooves of tracks like “No Sympathy” and
“Till Your Well Runs Dry,” they are counterbalanced by more playful
tunes like the sexually charged “Ketchy Shuby” and the spiritually
uplifting “Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised),” hailed as one of the first
reggae songs to incorporate the use of a synthesizer. In addition to liner
notes penned by acclaimed author and longtime Tosh accomplice Roger Steffens,
the Legacy version of Legalize features
an expanded edition of the original album with added demo versions of almost
every song on the album. It also boasts a bonus disc containing the far-grittier
Jamaican mix of the LP that showcases the album Tosh truly wanted to make,
along with alternate and dub versions of select cuts, some of which have rarely
been heard outside of the local Kingston
sound systems until now.


Yet where Legalize It chronicled
more of Tosh’s more personal viewpoints on the struggles of life, love and herb
in the wake of tragedy and disappointment, its 1977 follow-up, Equal Rights, was a grand political
manifesto that showcased the singer’s view of the world around him at the
height of the Cold War era.  It was an
album recorded in Jamaica during the country’s most elevated period of civil
conflict and unrest since 1865’s treacherous Morant Bay Rebellion that saw
nearly 1000 Jamaicans killed at the hands of government troops and more than
600 wrongfully imprisoned under martial law (and book-ended by the recent armed
conflict that all but decimated the country’s capital of Kingston in May of
2010). According to insightful liner notes by Tosh’s longtime manager Herbie
Miller, the political chaos took its toll on the creation of the record, as
power cuts, curfews, police oppression, military curtailment and random
eruptions of violence caused the artist to continuously reschedule and cancel
paid time at various studios around Kingston
before defecting to Miami
for the final mix.


But the turmoil-saturated creative process yielded what many
consider to be the greatest reggae album ever made, bolstered by songs like the
arresting version of “Get Up, Stand Up,” Tosh’s empowering anthem he
co-wrote with Marley for the Wailers’ classic second Island LP Burnin’, as well as the defiant
“Jah Guide” and the confrontational “Stepping Razor,” a song
originally written by early Wailers mentor and renowned “Godfather of
Reggae” Joe Higgs back in 1967, which Tosh recorded without properly
crediting him until Higgs won a court case against him establishing his standing
as the song’s true author. However, what made Equal Rights stand out beyond the tracks that addressed the
harrowing situation in Jamaica was the material directing Peter’s discomfort
with the events unfolding in other parts of the globe as well, particularly in
Africa, where tracks like “Downpressor Man,” “African” and
“Apartheid” aggressively chronicled the human rights violations
taking place in the central and southern regions of the Dark Continent. Meanwhile,
the cover art itself found Tosh emulating the likeness of Cuban revolutionary
Che Guevara as a nod of confidence to his contemporaries in Latin America while
cementing his stature as a fearless spokesman for the trials and tribulations
of the “Third World” in the context of the global “shitstem,” as
he so eloquently called it. 


The Legacy Edition of Equal adds seven previously unreleased outtakes from the original sessions on the
first disc, including such sought-after studio rarities as “Vampire,”
“Babylon Queendom,” “Mark of the Beast” and a solo version of
the Wailers classic “400 Years” that lyrically expounds upon the
original’s already explosive anti-colonial sentiments. The second disc contains
demo, alternate and extended renditions of several key album tracks as well as
a gang of dub plate versions that, like the ones featured on the Legalize It Legacy Edition, were only
previously available in extremely limited form.


Soon after Equal
, Peter Tosh signed with Rolling Stones Records and achieved more
mainstream success thanks to his then-newly minted relationship with Keith
Richards and Mick Jagger, cumulating in a memorable cameo in the Stones’
“Waiting On A Friend” video that received considerable airplay during
the infancy of MTV. Yet his visibility within a more commercialized marketplace
never hindered the Minister’s propensity to rage against the machine.  Undoubtedly, subsequent titles like 1978’s Bush Doctor, 1983’s Mama Africa and his Grammy-winning 1987 swan song No Nuclear War continued to demonstrate
his abilities as one of the world’s most outspoken political and cultural
activists. But no recordings established his stance as reggae music’s most
electrifying and controversial public figures quite like his first two solo masterpieces
for Columbia Records, both of which are now made more essential than ever.


DOWNLOAD: “Legalize It”, “What’cha Gonna Do”, “Why Must I
Cry”, “Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised)”, “Burial (Dub
Plate)”, “Second Hand (Shajahshoka Dub Plate)”, “Get Up,
Stand Up”, “Downpressor Man”, “Jah Guide”, “400
Years (Outtake)”, “Vampire (Outtake)”, “Mark Of The Beast
(Outtake)”, “Heavy Razor (Shajahshoka Dub Plate)”, “Equal
Rights (extended version)”, “Blame The Yout (Dub Plate)” RON HART



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