Having flirted with commercial acceptance on Bush Doctor, the former Wailers guitarist reasserted his cranky contrarian militancy on this album -- which is why he never reached the mega-stardom of his countryman Bob Marley. Unlike his old Wailers bandmate, Tosh had little interest in leavening his music's fiercely political bent, which effectively cemented his acquired-taste status (at least to American audiences). "Rumors of War" and "Fight On" explicitly address black majority rule in South Africa, a subject that few '70s artists even touched. Similarly, "Recruiting Soldiers" vows to physically round up enough fighters for the inevitable resistance, while "Jah She No" casts the poor's struggle to survive in stark, elemental terms ("Must righteous live in pain/And always look to shame?"). "Mystic Man" is a proud declaration of Tosh's lifestyle, which he pointedly contrasts against Western consumerist decadence (among other things, swearing off frankfurters, hamburgers, and any notions of drinking "pink, yellow, blue, green soda"). "Buk-in-hamm Palace is the biggest departure, building its outlaw theme of smoking marijuana in the Queen of England's home over a bubbling disco rhythm. It's easily the most accessible moment here, driven by Tosh's crack backup band of the time, Word, Sound & Power. There's no doubting Tosh's sincerity, though it sometimes founders in clichés and clunky lyric writing (like "Crystal Ball"'s coupling of "city" and "sh*tty"). From a strict songwriting viewpoint, Mystic Man isn't as distinctive as its predecessors, but a representative snapshot of Tosh's provocative artistry. "The Day the Dollar Die" is a roots classic, in which Tosh pleads his case for capitalism's demise over a shimmering pop-reggae groove -- proof he could craft compelling tunes to match his message.
Mystic Man Review
by Ralph Heibutzki