When you see the name Peter Tosh at the top of this review you may think that heís just another typical reggae artist. You know, the easy going chilled out guitar riff over some whiney/reggae-esque vocals. Itís kind of strange how little recognition Tosh receives considering that he actually taught Bob Marley how to play guitar. As a matter of fact Tosh was actually part of The Wailing Wailers, featuring himself, Marley, and Bunny Wailer. They happened to release a big hit, Simmer Down
in the late 60's. Things were going good for Tosh until he unfortunately drove his car off of a bridge thus killing his girlfriend. One year later Peter left the Wailers because they refused to release his solo album, Tosh was enraged. After the incident Tosh said that the only reason Bob Marley was so popular was because his father was white, no one took this seriously because Olí Pete was known for having a bit of a temper issue.
Itís really a shame that Bob Marley got all of the fame after Tosh left the band because in all honesty Mama Africa
is superior to anything that Marley has ever released. Mixing in elements of dub, ska, reggae, jazz, and Jamaican music Mama Africa
is an exciting, fun, and upbeat experience.
The title track opens up the album and it makes you feel as if you were standing on the shore lines of Africa. Backing women vocalists play a big role in the song along with Tosh chanting undecipherable words over groovy guitar lines and a nice afro beat. The instrumentation is actually quite simple and the soothing chorus is used over and over again but the atmosphere is just so damn cool that itís hard to resist. The second song, Glass House
picks up the pace and borrows ideas from swing music. In the background some Jamaican dub effects are used creating a groovy and slick vibe. My personal favorite song off the album would have to be Not Gonna Give Up
, a horn punched anthem with some jazzy guitar rhythms. I believe I think so highly of this track because it captures that relaxing atmosphere yet it incorporates some neat brass instrumentation and obvious ska elements.
Stop That Train
opens up the mid-section of the album and does a nice job. More easy going licks play and once in a while a nice trumpet comes in between the riffs. More women vocalists are used, and the song is the shortest on the album clocking in at just four minutes. Johnny B. Goode
is an ode to one of Tosheís friends and it is beautiful musically. Grand piano chords are played throughout most of the song over traditional reggae riffs. A few snappy brass instruments also play frequently creating one of the most diverse songs on the record. This should have been released as a single because it is catchy, funky, and relaxing.
The most chilled out song on the album has to be Peace Treaty
. On this particular song Tosh focuses on the chorus more then anything. ďPeace TreatyĒ is chanted over some draggy brass arrangements, this is one of those tracks that just make you feel so damn cool. There arenít a lot of instruments used but it still captures a warm and soothing mood. The album closes with Mega Dog
, Tosh obviously decided to end the album on a more angst-ridden note. The vocals are quite dark and mysterious while the guitar melodies are upbeat and laid-back. A little piano scale is played frequently and creates a simple yet wonderful melody.
If you donít listen to much reggae then you may not notice that much difference between Mama Africa
and many other reggae albums. At first the brass arrangements, afro beats, and groovy guitar licks may seem to subtle to even care about. When listening to Mama Africa
for the first time you will instantly notice how Tosh brings in a lot of back up female vocalists to add a bit of a soul edge to the music. There are enough catchy vocal harmonies, relaxing choruses, and sleazy instruments to keep you interested in the album. Reggae seems to get a bad reputation for being to generic and repetitive but with Mama Africa
that is definitely not the case.
Anybody who is into Bob Marley should unquestionably check this album out. Tosh uses more backup vocalists, instruments, and interesting rhythms than Marley ever did so if you are a reggae fan then Mama Africa
will be a pleasant surprise. Itís no doubt that Peter was one crazy dude back in the day. He left the Wailers after teaching Bob how to play guitar, he drove his car off of a ***ing bridge killing his girlfriend, and he also got beat up by many police officers while smoking marijuana. Although all of those incidents are pretty ridiculous or interesting I have to admit Tosh was one hell of a reggae artist creating a truly unique and diverse album in Mama Africa
that is a must for any fan of dub or reggae.