GREGORY ISAACS (b. 1951 - † 2010 )
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1981- Island - studio - discs: 1
Gregory Isaacs (1951) was one of the top sellers of the 70's. His mellow style was pretty fitting for some of the best "Lovers" cuts of that decade. His calm and quiet style made him to be known as the "Cool Ruler". This album is considered a very good one but Gregory is not one of my preferred 70's artist. Most of the time he is really mellow. But this is his style. In any case this remains a very good album. It contains the very well known "Night Nurse". My preferred track is the rootsy "Material Man". This is the third album where he is backed by the Roots Radics and of course it is perfectly played and arranged.
SINGS DENNIS BROWN
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2004 - Ras - studio - discs: 1
Gregory "The Cool Ruler" Isaacs pays tribute to his long time friend the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown. This fifteen tracks set covers some great songs from Brown. The quality of the original songs is great. Unfortunately Isaacs' voice is not the same as thirty years ago and the result is beyond his average quality. More than that Dennis Brown songs were among the most strong declarations of Roots music and the attempt from Gregory to add something new half fails. So do not expect anything enlightning from the Cool Rooler but only a heart felt tribute to his friend and long time companion. This set should be checked by the Dennis Brown fans and but more than that from those that admire the unique cool style of Isaacs. Thanks Gregory, because after all these years you are still there waving high the Roots and Lover's banner!
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1978 - Virgin - studio - discs: 1
This is the first album for the Virgin label (the second was "Soon Forward) and it was produced by Isaacs himself. The attempt was to get some crossover succes but it failed. This period of Gregory was that more conscious and it can be heard here. The style is Gregory's but the mood is more or less rootsy all along the set. The fact that it was mixed and recorded at Channel One Studios should suggest something. The material is all of high quality. "Uncle Joe" is the best track on side one. The second side is better than the first and it opens with a keyboards filled "One More Time". Follows the romantic "Let's Dance" (a song by John Holt) and the title describes perfectly the mood. "Created By The Father" is a tune by Dennis Brown. Isaacs is backed by the Heptones. The players are first class musicians as it would be expected from a set recorded at Channel One.
COOL RULER - THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION
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1970-1985 - Trojan - studio - discs:2
When the time comes to choose between the huge number of collections of Gregory Isaacs around, it is really a tough job. So here we are with this two discs (fortyone songs) release from Trojan. I am not an expert of Isaacs and therefore a Trojan "definitive collection" seemed quite the obvious choice since I trust this label's way of putting together a serious collection. Whatever the artist/s. So let's see what we have here. The first disc opens with some very early releases from Gregory. Tracks like "Dancing Floor" (1970) or "Look Before You Leap" (1972) demonstrate how since the beginning of his career he was highly confident on what will be years later called "Lovers Rock": a slow and melodic approach to Reggae. This sound, with its lyrics often about pained love, made Gregory the "cool ruler". The first disc explores the golden era of Reggae (the 70s) with some songs that reflect the Roots mood that permeated its second half. Drifting from love issues to the struggles of the ghetto sufferers, Gregory demonstrated that he was able to follow the main stream sorrounding him and at the same time keeping his own unique calm style. A particular tune to remember is "Mr. Cop" recorded in 1976 at the legendary Lee Perry's Black Ark (Pete Wilson produced). The second disc covers sixteen tracks from 1977 to 1985 and here I found my preferred material. This second part initially offers some almost "Rockers" sounds and later as the 80s "Dancehall" atmospheters takes hold, Gregory shines at full effect. Again he was able to create a perfect recipe made of "cool" moods and contemporary sounds, as if one part of it was already perfectly experimented and accepted, and the other one was about putting in some answers for the new musical sounds calling. The resulting material is often great. It is not my intention to talk about the related drugs problems of this artist that occured during these years. Here we approach and talk only about the music. This is an interesting compilation about a seminal artist of the Jamaican music. Maybe it is not the perfect collection. There are huge around to choose from. In any case Gregory is part of the Jamaican musical history. And he recorded some great music!
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1983 - Island - studio - discs: 1
"Out Deh!" is a generic Dancehall oriented set self produced by Gregory Isaacs. Recorded at Tuff Gong (but also with some tracks cut at London's Fallout Shelter) around 1983, with Errol Brown engineering and the Roots Radics as the backing band, this set lacks the expected quality. Maybe the reason why it is not such an impressive set is due to the fact that an external producer is absent. With only eight tracks, there is not such a space to hide the less interesting songs. What can be saved are: "Private Secretary" (some sort of version of "Night Nurse") and "Sheila". The rest is repetitive and quite under tone.
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1979 - Frontline - studio - discs:1
In early 1979 Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, also known as the Riddim Twins established their label called Taxi. The first hit issued by the label was Gregory's "Soon Forward". The subsequent album presenting ten tracks took its name from this huge hit . Some were recent hits, and some were brand new songs. The album was released in 1979 and produced by Isaacs, with the exception of the title track produced by Sly & Robbie. The album was cut at Channel One, and mixed at Harry J's. Crucial Bunny and Sylvan Morris engineered. The musicians were: Sly Dunbar, Leroy Wallace and Carlton "Santa" Davis (drums), Robbie Shakespeare and Leroy Sibbles (member of the Heptones) (bass), Bo-Peep Bowen and Eric "Bingy Bunny " Lamont (rhythm guitar), Scully Simms (aka Skully, Mikey Spratt, Zoots Scully Simms, Scollie, Zoot Sims, Skitter) and Sticky (percussions), Gladstone Anderson (piano), Winston Wright (organ), Ronald "Nambo" Robinson, Bobby Ellis and Deadly Headly (horns), Earl "Wire" Lindo (strings). Some backing vocals were provided by no less than Dennis Brown, Leroy Sibbles and Junior Delgado. All top artists. What is the result? On ten tracks, at least seven are really far more than good, with the highest peaks reached by "Universal Tribulation" and "Black Liberation Struggle". The other five songs that deserve the highest attention are "Down The Line", "Lonely Girl", "Slave Market", "Jah Music" and "Soon Forward". Somehow the remaining three track ("Mr. Brown", "Bumping And Boring" and "My Relationship") are inferior, but they also help to shape the final result. Here we have the unique style inside the Jamaican music of Gregory Isaacs and the touch of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. The former brings his delicate approach and the latter provide the right Roots mood just a little before the Dancehall sounds were coming. The perfect mix, at the end. This is a serious, confident and extremly balanced set by Mr. Isaacs.
1. Universal Tribulation
2. Mr. Brown
3. Down The Line
4. Lonely Girl
5. Bumping And Boring
6. My Relationship
7. Slave Market
8. Black Liberation Struggle
9. Jah Music
10. Soon Forward