Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Certain Songs #1548: Peter Tosh – “Stepping Razor” | Medialoper

Album: Equal Rights
Year: 1977

. . .

One of the first reggae albums I ever purchased, Peter Tosh’s 1977 Equal Rights is also one of my all-time favorite reggae albums, mixing and matching furious political commentary with thrilling and propulsive music.

Mixing and matching Wailers vets like keyboardist Earl Lindo and guitarist Al Anderson, Equal Rights was also one of the earliest albums that the crack rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare played on, and their incredible groove was just part of the reason Equal Rights sounded so great, especially compared to the somewhat thin Legalize It.

And it really did: as a producer, Tosh got a mix where you could follow every individual instrument as it wended its way through the song, or you could just sit back and let the songs steamroller you. And on no song was this more apparent than the titanic take on Joe Hill’s “Stepping Razor.”

Tosh’s version of “Stepping Razor” starts off with a feint: a funky, near-disco intro with Al Anderson attacking his guitar that effortlessly falls into a reggae groove over which Tosh announces his total and utter badness.

If you wanna live
Treat me good
If you wanna live, live
I beg you treat me good

As the song goes on, Tosh lists all of the people who shouldn’t fuck with him: bullies, chuckies, bull bukkas, duppies, drinkers, brick eaters. All of these people better treat him good. You know why?

I’m like a stepping razor
Don’t you watch my size
I’m dangerous, dangerous

I’m like a stepping razor
Don’t you watch my size
I’m dangerous, dangerous

The cool thing about this chorus is how it’s overdubbed throughout the song. At first there are just background vocals singing along with Tosh, but as the song goes on he starts chanting over the chorus, to the point where you’re not even sure he’s saying anymore, but one thing is for sure: he’s dangerous.

About halfway through, there’s a quick, ripping guitar solo from Anderson, and it’s also fun to hear Sly Drumbar mix up the beat on those choruses, so while the end section of “Stepping Razor” isn’t quite as fast as the opening section, it gets pretty damn close.

“Stepping Razor”

“Stepping Razor” performed live in Montreaux, 1979

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