Friday, 31 May 2019

Peter Tosh - Mama Africa (1983)

Where you gonna run....


Released in 1983

This was the last in a classic run of Peter Tosh albums, dating back to 1976. He would produce one more before his sad passing, but this run of six albums was what his career will always be assessed on. As with the others, it was an album of melodic militancy and was eminently listenable. It was actually the only one of his albums to break into the UK top 50. Personally, there are others I prefer slightly more, but only slightly, it has to be said.


1. Mama Africa
2. Glass House
3. Not Gonna Give Up
4. Stop That Train
5. Johnny B. Goode
6. Where You Gonna Run
7. Peace Treaty
8. Feel No Way
9. Maga Dog                

"Mama Africa" sounds like it comes straight from South Africa's Lucky Dube, who was very influenced by Tosh. The female backing vocals are instantly recognisable as those of the South Africa townships. It is a seven minute plus extended groove that just gets into its rhythm and keeps going, without actually getting anywhere, not that it real matters. "Glass House" is more of an archetypal Tosh skank, with a message, but always melodic and catchy at the same time. "Not Gonna Give Up" is a bassy, slow burning number fighting for South African freedom.

"Stop That Train" is, of course, the old Wailers song. Here is is given an updated brassy backing and features some captivating backing vocals. Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was a strange choice for a cover, delivered as it is in a laid-back reggae groove. It actually sounds really good, as long as you don't think of it as being the song it is. Just think of it as a new song.

"Where You Gonna Run" is a saxophone-powered mid-pace skank. "Peace Treaty" is an odd song. Tosh, as an apparent man of peace, appears to be happy, in an "I told you so" way that a non-violent peace treaty between criminals hasn't worked. Tosh's motives were usually correct, but sometimes they went askew a little. "Feel No Way" gets back on track, while "Maga Dog" sees Tosh righteous again, but, as with so many of his songs, its message is diluted considerably by its addictive, tuneful groove.

Despite Tosh's occasional lyrical indiscretions and sometimes muddled messages, his reggae was superb, and his heart was essentially in the right place. I miss his music, he was a true reggae great.


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