The Whole Wide World: Peter Tosh's The Ultimate Experience

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Peter Tosh

The Ultimate Experience (Shanachie)


More than 20 years since Peter Tosh's 1987 assassination, the Wailers co-founder's legacy (as well as Bob Marley's) live on around the world, but that rings especially true in his native Jamaica, where he burst out of poverty and misery to become one of the most recognizable names in reggae. On a recent trip to the island - I stayed in a hotel close to Negril beach, not far from Bob Marley's house, which has become a tourist attraction - I couldn't help but notice that his music, especially the material he recorded with the original Wailers, was as present as ever.

To celebrate Tosh's legacy, Shanachie is releasing a three-disc definitive look at the man's music. The box contains one CD with rare or previously unreleased recordings and two DVDs - the first with live footage from different concerts played around the globe, some of it very grainy, but nevertheless enjoyable; according to the liner notes, many of the master tapes no longer exist.

"You Can't Blame The Youth," The Wailers feat. Peter Tosh and Bob Marley

The most poignant part of the package, however, is the inclusion of Nicholas Campell's 1991 Stepping Razor: Red X, an in-depth documentary that follows Tosh's life from his early childhood all the way to his shooting death in 1987. The documentary begins by explaining that Tosh spent four years recording his life story onto cassette tapes - a project that he planned to turn into an autobiography.

He labeled these tapes "Red X," an allusion to the symbol he saw next to every single official document bearing his name. According to the documentary, those tapes were discovered in 1990 and became the basis for the film. Stepping Razor deals with his murder quickly: shots ring out, and friends and family members comment on the tragedy. We are then transported to the mid-'50s, when Tosh discovers his musical talent while playing organ in a local Catholic church.

At the same time, we learn that his racial rage began early on. "We were taught that Jesus was the son of God," he says at one point, "and that he was a white man." He also notes that in his poor neighborhood, nobody ever saw a black preacher, lawyer or doctor - his people, as he saw it, were condemned to live in poverty.

"Walk, Don't Look Back"

The documentary also looks at the early days with the Wailers, and we hear some of their original recordings - including "Walk, Don't Look Back," a tune he would revisit years later with Mick Jagger by his side (the video includes footage of his 1970s Saturday Night Live appearance with the Rolling Stones' lead vocalist). It also explores Tosh's political activism towards the legalization of marijuana and finally his murder - a rather unexplained mystery that baffles fans to this day.

Accompanying the collection is a booklet with extensive liner notes: a detailed biography by Randall Grass and essays by journalist Roger Steffens and Tosh's former manager Herbie Miller. Fans of Tosh - or just those who appreciate reggae music - will find Peter Tosh: The Ultimate Experience a treat that may well inspire a visit to his Caribbean island.

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