Mama Africa [Bonus Tracks]

by: Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh's most "accessible" solo album, Mama Africa would also be his top seller outside Jamaica, the only one of his albums to break into the U.K. Top 50 and even push into the bottom reaches of the U.S. chart. Toning down the rhetoric, Tosh concentrated on the music, self-producing an album that sounds fantastic from start to finish. Of course, he had help from a boatload of friends, with two separate aggregates of musicians providing backing; Carlton "Santa" Davis and Leebert "Gibby" Morrison fuel one grouping across most of the album, with Sly & Robbie firing the other. There's a fabulous horn section, a clutch of superb backing singers (including the Tamlins, who accompany Tosh on three songs), and some superb guitar work from Donald Kinsey. The album itself revisits the past while also looking to the future. The updated songs are particularly creative, with the Wailers' "Stop That Train" totally revitalized through an incredible mix of styles, brilliantly blending R&B, nods to Motown, a faux slide guitar, and a steady reggae beat. Even more astonishing is Tosh's stunning take on "Johnny B. Goode," a U.K. Top 50 hit that boasts an intricate rhythm, brass accents, sumptuous keyboards, and Kinsey's soaring guitar on a song that builds and builds into an absolute crescendo of sound. There's also a fine revisit of "Maga Dog," one of Tosh's nastier songs. But that has little on "Peace Treaty," whose laid-back beat and chirpy melody can't hide Tosh's gloating. Yes, listeners remember his admonition that peace will only be found in the grave, and the cease-fire declared by the gangs would never last. But as gunfire echoes across the track, should the treaty's collapse really be the cause for celebration? To judge by Tosh's triumphant I told you so, apparently it is. On a more positive note is the urban meets Kingston sound of "Not Gonna Give It Up," boasting the Tamlins at their best, and more great guitar licks. The title track is even more infectious, a rocker with a Caribbean flair and a light Afro-beat, as Tosh muses eloquently about his beloved continent. Every track on the album is just as memorable in its own way, as the artist combines styles, genres, moods, and atmospheres across songs old and new. Not Tosh at his most revolutionary, but an album filled with music that remains unforgettable. [The 2002 reissue adds three tracks to the end of the album: "Johnny B. Goode (Long Version)," "Where You Gonna Run (Long Version)," and "Mama Africa (7" Version)."] ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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