1976, Music

Legalize It (1976) by Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh is the best reggae songwriter I’ve heard. I understand this is a bit of a hot take, but I think it’s defensible. Or, maybe, what’s defensible is that Peter Tosh is my favourite reggae songwriter. But I’d rather the former be true.

Tosh has a wider range of interests than his former bandmates (and any other reggae songwriter I’ve heard). He writes about more things but he also writes about them with more thought and insight. We’re not just inundated with a series of songs on two subjects.

Sure, his melodies aren’t as good as Bob Marley’s but I’m not sure they’re far inferior, once you get past Marley’s catchiest songs. (Okay, maybe this is going too far. Marley’s melodies are catchier. It’s no surprise that one of the catchiest songs here was co-written with Marley.)

Equal Rights is a better set of songs, but this is still a pretty good set of songs, and arguably, at least from a lyrical standpoint, better than any Marley managed on a single record.

Judging arrangements on ’70s reggae records is tough because they all lean into a pretty similar sound. They’re some synthesizers here, which gives the sound a little bit of a change, but also dates it to the middle of the ’70s. And there are guitar solos! Otherwise the arrangements are fine. I wouldn’t mind a little more variation but I get it, it’s reggae.

The production is pretty good, though. You feel the bass as you should and it’s a relatively lean sound (attributable to the arrangements too, of course). Tosh’s voice is mixed pretty low, which is something I actually like in many genres, including reggae – the musicians don’t feel as much like a backing band.

All in all, it’s an auspicious solo debut, for me much more the kind of record I’d like to listen to than the more famous Marley solo albums.


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