Equal Rights

Peter Tosh

Columbia / Legacy Records, 1977


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The more I listen to reggae artist Peter Tosh, the more I have to question why he never achieved the superstardom that his former bandmate Bob Marley did.

Tosh's second solo album, Equal Rights, is the disc that (at least so far in my journeys) makes the strongest case for Tosh's career. Solid from start to finish, Tosh shows that he was just as good a songwriter and performer as Marley, even if his material didn't fit perfectly in the "hit single" mold.

Tosh makes only one slip on this album - and that's his cover of The Wailers' "Get Up, Stand Up". He has every right to cover the song; after all, he was a member of the band when this song was written and first recorded. But this version seems to leave something out, though I can't put my finger on what's missing from it. Its more plodding pace also seems to take away some of the song's social urgency.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fortunately, this is the only mistake that Tosh makes on this entire album. From that point on, Equal Rights challenges and entertains you at every turn. "Downpressor Man" is a track that seems to be much shorter than the six-plus minutes it's clocked at; you'll actually find yourself wishing that this groove didn't end. The title track and "Apartheid" are powerful messages for social upheaval and doing away with the old systems of oppressing blacks, no matter what country you live in.

And while it's not necessarily a "black-is-beautiful" anthem per se, "African" is a track that Tosh uses to remind people that no matter where you live or what your background is, if you're black, you still have firm roots in Africa, and you shouldn't forget your past. (I know, a strong interpretation of the track from a white guy, but I think that Tosh was onto something.)

While many of these songs won't be familiar unless you've really followed Tosh's work, there is something about listening to Equal Rights for the first time that makes you feel like you're putting on a pair of old, comfortable slippers. Tosh's style flows so freely and his music is so accessible that it's almost like you've been listening to him all your life. And this is where the paradox of his lack of stardom in the U.S. comes into play.

The recently-remastered disc includes a live version of "Pick Myself Up" - and though the disc says the second bonus track is an alternate version of "Wanted Dread And Alive," I hear a live version of "African" in its place. Not that I'm complaining; the live version smokes.

Equal Rights is possibly the must-own album of Tosh's career, and deserves to be spoken about in the same breath as any Bob Marley album.

Rating: A-

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