Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Peter Tosh - Bush Doctor (1978)


Released in 1978

This was Peter Tosh's first release on The Rolling Stones label and, while it was a bit of an obvious attempt to cash in on the reggae/rock crossover that punk had inspired and also to bring Tosh's music to a mainstream radio audience, like his old mate Bob Marley (who was off conquering the world), it was also an album that stuck to its essential roots feel. It is still quite a rootsy album, in places, but the overall feel is one of carefree, lively, toe-tapping, skanking enjoyment. It is by far Tosh's most accessible album.


1. (You Gotta Walk) Don't look Back
2. Pick Myself Up
3. I'm The Toughest
4. Soon Come
5. Moses The Prophet
6. Bush Doctor
7. Stand Firm
8. Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin'
9. Creation                                                            

The opener was a cover of The Temptations' "(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back" and featured a somewhat self-conscious vocal duet between Tosh and Mick Jagger, but, despite that, it is still a radio-friendly catchy number, and indeed was a minor hit. It succeeded in bringing Tosh's name further into the limelight for a while, and the album was quite a good seller, probably Tosh's most successful. Both the uplifting "Pick Myself Up" and "I'm The Toughest" are lively, quite poppy offerings, with a commercial skanking beat, saxophone on the latter and singalong refrains. These are very much attempts to plough the same furrow as Bob Marley in their obviously accessible melodies. Reggae for the masses. Not that they aren't both immensely appealing songs.

"Soon Come" is another upbeat number, full of punchy horns and a catchy chorus. It is probably time for a bit of Rasta consciousness and it arrives in "Moses The Prophet" with its Biblical warnings, but it is still delivered over an infectious, energetic beat, as indeed is "Bush Doctor", which has Tosh telling us the cigarettes are bad for us, so we should legalise marijuana. Both these songs are once again pretty irresistible. "Stand Firm" is the most rootsy cut so far, heavier and bassier. It is enhanced as is all the album by some great guitar. The guitar on here, and on the previous track, is played by none other than Keith Richards, always The Stones' biggest reggae fan. The guitar is not the usual Richards riff, though, it is a wah-wah skank.

"Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin'" is an old Wailers song and it contains an evocative vocal from Tosh. Again, it is a really exhilarating number. The one song that breaks the album's mould is the unusual "Creation", a six minute mix of Handel's Messiah, gospelly female backing vocals, the Bible's creation story, thunderbolt sound effects, wave sounds and a spoken vocal which has Tosh proclaiming his spiritual devotion. There is no reggae in the track at all, just a gentle acoustic guitar. It is a very odd, incongruous track but, that aside, this album is a true pleasure from beginning to end. Keith Richards said that Tosh was a bit difficult to work with in his rather inconsistent, unreliable way, but Keith (a bit that way himself) just muddled along, (man), and the results are a delightful album that just has a real unbridled joie de vivre about it.


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