Take One: Peter Tosh -‘Coming In Hot’ 1981-Musical Shot

by | May 19, 2019 | 0 comments

Spinning today in the ‘reggae room’ are sweet smoky riddims
of Peter Tosh’s 1981 classic cut, ‘Coming In Hot’. The song is the lead off
track from Tosh’s excellent full length 1981 LP Wanted Dread and Alive, Tosh’s 5th solo record. The song
was also released as a single in conjunction with the LP b/w ‘Reggae Mylitis’.
Typically for many of Tosh’s songs, it did not make a huge dent in the popular charts
but quickly became one of his on stage favorites as well as one of his career
defining cuts. A track that deftly blends all of the ‘Mystic Man’s musical and
composing abilities.

The magic contained within Peter Tosh was his innate ability
to combine stunning and unique melody with often serious content and direct
messages. This keen ability often kept Tosh out of the mainstream as much of
his lyrical directive was hard to accept for your everyday normal music
listener. His expression of love for Rastafarianism, Emperor Haile Selassie
(Jah), herb and his Jamaican brethren didn’t always connect with an often
closed minded public.  But for his
followers and serious reggae fans though; Tosh’s storytelling and unabashed
calling out of oppressors, downpressors and shady governments was to be
honored. This endeared him to the forgotten and the poor of his own country of
Jamaica as he spoke directly to them and without pretense.

In the case of ‘Coming in Hot’, Tosh cross pollinates an
addictive musical theme with a double entendre lyric about his personal
attitudes toward himself and his relationship with the muse of music. His
deftly uses the metaphor of a gun to match with his musical inspiration as each
description of the weapon’s makeup builds to Tosh ‘pul(ing) the trigger’.
Weapons, both symbolically and in reality unfortunately hold a visible spot in
Jamaica’s turbulent history. ‘Coming in Hot/Firing Some Shot/Coming in Hot/It’s
A Musical Shot’, sings the opening stanza which sets the stage for Tosh to explore
the narrative on top of the heavy one drop.
 
‘Comin in Hot’ begins with Sly Dunbar’s crisp kick drum
initiating a syncopated opening punctuated by starter gun snare cracks. A brief
pause and the song begins in earnest with the aforementioned chorus lines and a
gnarly roots groove. Robbie Shakespeare’s bass is substantial and reverberates
as a big oar navigating the songs choppy riddim. It sounds like Dunbar wants to
play a straight rock beat but the groove is shifty and is dotted by rich wafts
of percussion. Dunbar’s double bass responds in kind, pumping dark red blood
into the song’s flesh.
Following the introductory chorus, the verses waft in like a
long draw on a smoky spliff. Dunbar plays it thick and straight while Tosh’s mesmerizing
sermon explains matter a factly what this musical heat wave effect has on his
inspiration and his physicality. Subtle interjections of dancehall keyboards
and sweet  well timed backing vocals by
‘The Tamlin’s are the noticeable craft work, but as previously stated, Sly and
Robbie are the heavies blowing on the coals. Tosh’s dark rich baritone exudes cool while lending the song a believable edge.
Following a steamy beach walk around the verses and chorus
comes a mid-song key change. The moment is just long enough to twist your ear
before quickly returning to the song proper. While just a fleeting musical
moment, the change is the kind that the ‘rock room’ lives for and is sure to
give you  an ‘irie’ feeling. The closing verses float back in on Tosh’s rhythmic phrasing, before allowing the song to fade out into the run out
grooves.
The ‘rock room’ is quite stumped for why this track did not
make a bigger dent, but then again I understand that Tosh’s commerciality in no
way reflects his amazing abilities. On his own island I am sure it blasted from
the smoky doorways of Jamaica clubs additionally having a special place for
music lovers on the island. Tosh was a prophet and music was his medium. Like
all prophets, the message disseminated is not always what one wants to hear, or
alternatively the message is too painful because of its truth. ‘Coming In Hot’
was Tosh’s statement of confidence, power and inspiration in himself and an
amazing track with no finger pointing involved. Tosh is playing the true ‘Rastaman’
who’s purpose is to illicit ‘positive vibrations’.
‘Coming in Hot’s’ sustainable makeup and longevity is proven
as over 35 years later Tosh’s grandson Dre Tosh re cut ‘Coming In Hot’ as a
tribute to his grandfather, his country and to Rastafarianism in 2017. While
listening to this updated version I am again reminded of the quiet power and
majesty of Peter Tosh’s catalog and its enduring message. Whenever you hear
reggae music and feel it’s one drop caress, and enjoy it’s happy vibes,
remember like everything there is a Ying and a Yang to be considered. In the
case of Peter Tosh the balance is ‘positivity’ as well as a fight for, ‘equal
rights and justice’.

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