An Upsetters Showcase

by: Peter Tosh

Ever politically outspoken and a songwriter of the toughest caliber, Peter Tosh rose in the mid-'70s to be one of the biggest names in reggae, building on the years of foundational work he put in as co-founder of the legendary Wailers. In their early days, the Wailers collaborated frequently with wild genius and producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, working together on well over 100 tracks in a relatively small two-year period. In that time, even when sharing the spotlight with Bob Marley, Perry encouraged Tosh to explore recording his own solo compositions. Upsetters Showcase grabs several of Tosh's best cuts from this highly fruitful and experimental late-'60s/early-'70s period and complements them with other Perry-produced reggae cuts from the same with deejays U-Roy and Big Youth, as well as a few lesser-known artists. Front loaded with Tosh selections, the compilation kicks off with the brooding sway of "400 Years," a sharp and burning rhythm ornamented by Tosh's bellowing anti-slavery sentiments and Perry's psychedelic production hand. Two versions of a more ska-flavored Tosh tune, "Brand New Second Hand," also show up here, hinting at the songwriter's mellower roots, especially when placed next to more politically minded, dub-friendly tunes like "Downpressor." Framing Upsetters Showcase as a Peter Tosh album is misleading, as after the first few selections, the majority of the rest of the collection is filled with tunes from ska vocalist Dave Barker to the Jimmy Cliff-modeled melodic roots grooves of Carl Dawkins. As with anything bearing the Perry name, this is top-notch reggae and a multifaceted cross-section of varying styles and sounds. ~ Fred Thomas

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