Gregory Isaacs – Mr. Isaacs
Gregory Isaacs – Mr. Isaacs
Label: 17 North Parade | Format: 2CD-LP-DR | Street date: July 19, 2019 | Website Label |
- Storybook Children
- Slave Master
- Get Ready
- Set The Captive Free
- The Winner
Toot, Lonely Lover or simply Cool Ruler are just some of the nick names given to Gregory Isaacs, who was regarded the ‘rude boy’ of reggae mainly due to rumors about his rude boy lifestyle. He once claimed he had to be tough to maintain his position within Kingston’s notorious musical industry. He was born in Kingston JA on the 15th July 1950 and passed away 25th October 2010, after a battle with lung cancer. With a career spanning some 40 plus years and an estimated 500 (!) albums to his credit, his discography is a confusing labyrinth of various producers, musicians, record labels, studios and compilations. Besides the successes there were also problems with an imprisonment and drug abuse, something that overshadowed his massive career and was probably the reason he recorded material for anyone that was willing to pay him money for it. Alone – out of all reggae’s star performers – Gregory Isaacs did maintain his position within Kingston’s notorious music industry. He kept on recording and performing until his sad dead in 2010 and will for always be remembered as one of reggae’s finest vocalists.
VP Records unleashes the classic 1977 album as remastered original 9 track LP and double cd with extra tracks and Ossie Hibbert’s dub album Leggo Dub. This is the LP review, with very informative extended liner notes on the inner sleeve. Mr. Isaacs was recorded in 1976 at Channel 1 studios and produced by Ossie Hibbert, who issued a pre-release of the album under the name The Greatest. The whole set – mostly roots material – features Gregory Isaacs at the height of his considerable powers and illustrates perfectly why – along with Big Youth, Dennis Brown, Cornell Campbell and Johnnie Clarke – Isaacs ruled the Jamaican dancehall of the 1970s.
The album is widely regarded as one of Gregory’s all time best sets, offering six undiluted original roots and culture tunes as well as three covers. The backing is provided by The Soul Syndicate and The Revolutionaries. Gregory’s vocal delivery remains on par throughout the whole album, excelling on roots tunes such as the striking opening tune Sacrifice and Storm, a tune that has gone on to be versioned frequently over the years. Handcuff is one of his most brilliant cuts here with beautiful backing vocals by The Heptones. It tells about a herb arrest during the 1976 State of Emergency that the government announced after some 160 people had been killed in political violence since the beginning of the year.
Producer Niney contributes Slavemaster, probably one of Gregory’s best songs ever. The dub flavored Slave Master is among the most popular in his catalog, immortalized on film in the movie Rockers. Another exceptional track of that period is Set The Captive Free. Gregory’s ghetto lyrics are underpinned by the superb riddim that Bunny Lee used in 1975 for Leroy Smart’s Shame And Pride. Smile was originally recorded by the Silvertones at Studio One. Gregory relicks it, staying close to the original cut.
The rest of the tunes are two covers of soul tunes. First there’s Storybook Children, the original recorded by Billy Vera & Judy Clay in 1967. Gregory’s qualities turn this sugar sweet original into a fresh lovers tune. In 1966 The Temptations charted with Get Ready, a track written by Motown’s in-house songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson. For his interpretation Gregory slows down the uptempo dance song into a relaxed reggae beat.