Published Aug 26, 2020Very few of the original ska and reggae pioneers remain active, so news of a new album from Jamaican legends Toots and the Maytals has generated real interest. The potency of Toots Hibbert's material is evidenced by the presence of his classic tune "Pressure Drop" in a current TV beer commercial. No single track on Got to Be Tough matches up to that song, but this is a solid offering from the 77-year-old.
Opening cut "Drop Off Head" sets the stage, featuring a tougher groove than you might expect, and boosted by I-Threes-style style female backing vocals and horns. Toots' voice remains warm and welcoming, with a hint of raspiness. This full-blooded sound serves as the album's template, with the more laidback feel of "Good Thing That You Call," the upbeat and ska-accented "Having a Party," and the rocksteady vibe of "Warning Warning" (an album highlight) providing a welcome change of pace. Hibbert produced and arranged the horns skilfully, while high-profile guests include Zak Starkey on guitar, Sly Dunbar on drums and Cyril Neville on percussion.
As Got to Be Tough's title suggests, the lyrical focus here is on survival in a troubled era. "Living in this time it ain't so easy to carry on" is the lament of "Got to Be Tough," while "Struggle" pleads, "We've got to stop the fighting, the shooting and killing." The inclusion of a cover of the Bob Marley classic "Three Little Birds," featuring guest vocals from Ziggy Marley, smacks of a marketing ploy, but Hibbert mixes up the tune enough to keep things interesting. It's nice to have him back. (Trojan Jamaica/BMG)