Peter Tosh – “Bush Doctor” (1978)

January 24, 2009 at 6:19 pm (Reviews & Articles)

Timothy White’s review from Rolling Stone, April 19, 1979 (issue #289) of reggae legend Peter Tosh’s 1978 album Bush Doctor, which came out on Rolling Stones Records. As you can see, White didn’t think much of the album…


In a genre noted for its fiery protest singers, reggae artist Peter Tosh has long been an especially choleric standout. This ex-member of the original Wailers first came to the attention of most people with the American release in 1976 of his brazen pro-ganja Jamaican hit, “Legalize It.” Like so many of the angry singles he releases on his own Intel-Diplo (short for “intelligent diplomat”) label in Jamaica, the song was promptly banned by the island’s radio stations, enhancing his local reputation as an underground firebrand.

Tosh’s two Columbia albums, Legalize It and Equal Rights, were excellent introductions to his sometimes strident but usually compelling Rasta commentaries on such controversial subjects as apartheid in South Africa, the Jamaican policy of indefinite detention for possession of a gun, unjust marijuana laws, etc. Each number was delivered with the ominous, calypso-flavored reggae stalk tempo that he favors, and hammered home with his wonderfully hair-raising, voice-from-the-crypt baritone.

Just prior to the release of Bush Doctor, the singer was accosted by island police following a pot bust, though he insists that the assault was a reprisal for his sharp-tongued denunciation last April of Prime Minister Michael Manley’s “shitstem.” Ironically, a (misspelled) remake of “Dem a Fe Get a Beatin’,” a 1972 Jamaican hit by Tosh that helped cement the Rasta support of Manley’s election that year, appears on the new LP, but the tune’s hard-edged tone has eerily dissolved into easy listening. Indeed, most of the songs on Bush Doctor, with the exception of the authoritative title track and the trancelike “‘Moses’—the Prophets,” are repeatedly undermined by inventive but meandering instrumentation and, worst of all, horribly sweet female backup vocals. The inappropriateness of the latter becomes downright depressing when a remake of “I’m the Toughest” is suffocated by a glut of insipid background cooing.

Bush Doctor‘s best cut is Peter Tosh’s delightful duet with Mick Jagger in “(You Got to Walk and) Don’t Look Back,” a forceful rendition whose effervescence reinforces its power. Tosh has never been very convincing on any sort of love song, so this success represents a real breakthrough. Things get downright unnerving, however, when the artist struggles to turn his most aggressive material into syrupy commercial ballads. Love can be a great sentiment on which to base a reggae tune, but is this love—to borrow Jimi Hendrix’ phrase—or is it confusion?

Timothy White

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President Obama’s Weekly Address (Jan. 24, 2009)

January 24, 2009 at 2:42 pm (Life & Politics)

President Obama’s first weekly address since taking office this past week… 

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Arzachel – “Garden of Earthly Delights” (1969)

January 24, 2009 at 10:54 am (Psychedelia)

Another offering from Steve Hillage’s early band Arzachel, from their sole album from 1969. Interesting offering…

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