May 17, 2005
Reggae, Dub, Roots Reggae, Political Reggae

Album Review

Black Dignity is by no means the only Peter Tosh collection anyone should own, since it covers a tumultuous sliver of time. The tracks here are Trojan Records-associated songs that come from the early '70s, a time when Tosh was issuing solo singles out of resentment for the slow pace his band, the Wailers, was taking and resentment for the back seat he was taking to the Wailers' leader, Bob Marley. You miss the earlier Tosh carving out a solo career and all the post-Wailers success that was to come, but the Wailers' most distrustful and urgent member didn't issue anything without a purpose. The singles here are all important and as the excellent, career-spanning liner notes by Rick Glanvill point out, the producers Tosh was working with were in their prime, most notably Joe Gibbs. It was a producer/singer match made in heaven with Gibbs tempering Tosh's venom with sweet but very certain soul. On the Gibbs tracks it feels like that tense moment right before the kettle is about boil, something you'll feel when the excellent "Maga Dog" comes through the speakers. Black Dignity fills a void just by including the heralded Gibbs version of the track, but it also includes no less than four mostly faceless dub versions of the song that contain little or no involvement from Tosh (to be fair, the cover does mention "and friends"). The wild "Here Comes the Judge" -- which is followed by two of its dubs -- and the earthy, nyahbinghi-flavored "(Earth's) Rightful Ruler" are also crucial cuts the collection makes easy to obtain, the latter featuring an appearance by a young, very different-sounding U-Roy. The Lee "Scratch " Perry tracks are the Tosh-centered cuts he did with the Wailers and do a good job of representing the singer's contribution to the group. "Brand New Second Hand" shows what the Wailers were like with Tosh at the controls and makes a great argument that there should have been more of it. The track list doesn't flow as well as one would hope, but this is a more academic outing without any best-of disguise. Taking that into account and looking at the scant bit of Tosh Trojan has in its vaults, one can't help but respect how well Black Dignity brings the singer's "lost years" into the light. Start elsewhere if you're a newcomer, because this is a gap-filling gift for hardcore fans.
David Jeffries, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Brand New Second Hand
  2. Them a Fe a Beaten
  3. Reuben
  4. Stop the Train
  5. Here Comes the Judge
  6. Rebelution
  7. Ah So
  8. Soon Come
  9. Memphis
  10. Arise Black Man
  11. Four Hundred Years
  12. Maga Dog
  13. Skanky Dog
  14. Boney Dog
  15. Fat Dog
  16. Maingy Dog
  17. Go Tell It on the Mountain
  18. Nobody's Business (AKA Leave My Business)
  19. Downpressor
  20. Rudie's Medley
  21. Can't You See
  22. Black Dignity
  23. (Earth's) Rightful Ruler
  24. Brand New Second Hand [Alternate Version]