Peter Tosh

The Toughest [Capitol]

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Wasting no time in the aftermath of Peter Tosh's murder in September 1987, his label, Capitol, quickly readied and released a retrospective compilation, which arrived in the new year. Obviously, the tracks were drawn from the six Tosh albums Capitol had rights to -- 1978's Bush Doctor, the following year's Mystic Man, 1981's Wanted Dread & Alive, 1983's Mama Africa, the following year's Captured Live, and 1987's No Nuclear War, Tosh's final set. It's hard to do justice to any of these sets, never mind the artist himself, in 11 tracks, but The Toughest, which oddly doesn't include "I'm the Toughest," does the best it can under the circumstances. Each of the albums gets a look, with party songs like "Reggaemylitis" and "Coming in Hot" rubbing shoulders with the more introspective "Bush Doctor" and "Mystic Man," while musically pop and roots vie for attention. What's lacking, however, are any of Tosh's more militant songs, the ones that defined his reputation back home in Jamaica. No surprise there. While he was alive, Capitol was forced to accept this side of Tosh; once he was gone, they could safely ignore it. And so taking a stance they continue to hold, the label deep-sixed Tosh the revolutionary in favor of a creating a less threatening legend, a makeover Capitol has reinforced with every subsequent compilation. Apparently, this is precisely what American fans wanted -- or perhaps they just never had the opportunity to discover the true depths of the man turned reggae icon.

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