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Reggae - Released December 2, 2013 | Tad's Record

One of Isaacs' most popular and enjoyable releases, 1982's Night Nurse sports the kind of slicked-up roots sound that emerged in the early days of dancehall-era reggae. In addition to effortlessly delivering the same smooth, "lonely lover" vocals that graced his many successful sides from the '70s, Isaacs, along with bassist "Flabba" Holt, also produced the eight high-quality tracks here. Showing his secular, dancehall-minded hand, Isaacs works magic on the classic lovers rock titles "Night Nurse," "Objection Overruled," and "Cool Down the Pace." The singer is in his best and most vulnerable lovers mode, though, on outsider themes like "Stranger in Town" and "Sad to Know (You're Leaving)." And as was his way -- and many other of his contemporaries for that matter (Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul, etc.) -- Isaacs mixes his concerns with the flesh with those of a more spiritual nature, coming up here with two of his finest Rasta-cultural themes in "Material Man" and "Hot Stepper." Isaacs once again utilizes the incredible talents of the Roots Radics band (the favored early-'80s Jamaican studio outfit), which includes Holt on bass, Eric "Bingy Bunny" Lamont on rhythm guitar, "Style" Scott on drums, and Wycliffe "Steelie" Johnson on keyboards. With a crossover hit in their sights, Mango also brought in funk synthesizer player Wally Badarou to liven things up. Along with other fine Isaacs titles like Cool Ruler and More Gregory, Night Nurse is essential listening for reggae fans. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1982 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

One of Isaacs' most popular and enjoyable releases, 1982's Night Nurse sports the kind of slicked-up roots sound that emerged in the early days of dancehall-era reggae. In addition to effortlessly delivering the same smooth, "lonely lover" vocals that graced his many successful sides from the '70s, Isaacs, along with bassist "Flabba" Holt, also produced the eight high-quality tracks here. Showing his secular, dancehall-minded hand, Isaacs works magic on the classic lovers rock titles "Night Nurse," "Objection Overruled," and "Cool Down the Pace." The singer is in his best and most vulnerable lovers mode, though, on outsider themes like "Stranger in Town" and "Sad to Know (You're Leaving)." And as was his way -- and many other of his contemporaries for that matter (Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul, etc.) -- Isaacs mixes his concerns with the flesh with those of a more spiritual nature, coming up here with two of his finest Rasta-cultural themes in "Material Man" and "Hot Stepper." Isaacs once again utilizes the incredible talents of the Roots Radics band (the favored early-'80s Jamaican studio outfit), which includes Holt on bass, Eric "Bingy Bunny" Lamont on rhythm guitar, "Style" Scott on drums, and Wycliffe "Steelie" Johnson on keyboards. With a crossover hit in their sights, Mango also brought in funk synthesizer player Wally Badarou to liven things up. Along with other fine Isaacs titles like Cool Ruler and More Gregory, Night Nurse is essential listening for reggae fans. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Reggae - Released November 21, 2011 | VP

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Reggae - Released April 28, 2017 | Tad's Record - African Museum

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Reggae - Released May 21, 2013 | Tad's Record - African Museum

In the late '70s, Gregory Isaacs cut two albums for Virgin's Front Line imprint. Cool Ruler was the first and, although it never achieved significant commercial success, it remains one of his more impressive achievements. Backed by what is, in essence, the Revolutionaries band (drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Robbie Shakespeare, keyboardist Ansel Collins, saxophonist Tommy McCook, etc.) and with the Heptones providing background vocals, Isaacs delivers a truly classic program of lovers rock and cultural tunes, from the sweetly adoring "Native Woman" to the coolly spiritual "Created by the Father." As always, he's making the most of a seriously limited instrument: Isaacs' voice is not attractive by any conventional standard, but his laconic, understated style makes a virtue of his thin, reedy voice, and the quality of his songs is on a par with the best reggae artists. © Rick Anderson /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1979 | Tad's Record

One of the most crucial albums by reggae singing legend Gregory Isaacs, Soon Forward features an all-star lineup that includes the quintessential Sly and Robbie rhythm section as well as Dennis Brown on backing vocals. With all but one track produced by Isaacs himself, the sticky subtleties of instrumental dub resonate with a trance-inducing effect. Known for the pained purity of his vocal tone, Isaacs graces the microphone with every passing phrase. As he covers romantic territory on classic songs such as "Lonely Girl" and "Soon Forward," the Cool Ruler also sets fire to cultural themes on songs such as "Universal Tribulation" and "Black Liberation Struggle." Originally released in 1979, Soon Forward stands casually at the crossroads of roots reggae, dub, and dancehall. While it might not have been widely recognized outside of Jamaica back then, it is the type of album to stand up to the test of time. © Robert Gabriel /TiVo
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Reggae - Released June 14, 2011 | Tad's Record - African Museum

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Dub - Released March 3, 2019 | Shaklow

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1977 | Trojan Records

Overseen by Sidney Crooks and arriving in 1973, Gregory Isaacs' debut album, All I Have Is Love, cashed in on the singer's breakout hit single of the same title. The following year, Isaacs scored his first number one with "Love Is Overdue," just one of a slew of hits he recorded for Alvin Ranglin, who produced the singer's sophomore set, In Person, as well as its follow-up, 1977's Willow Tree. (These albums arrived later, and in a different order, abroad.) During this four-year period, Isaacs flitted through the Jamaican studios like a butterfly, working with myriad producers and unleashing a deluge of singles, many of them hits. Released in 1977, Extra Classic bundled up a dozen 45s from a host of producers, including Isaacs himself, as well as Crooks, Lee Perry, Pete Weston, Lloyd Campbell, and Augustus "Gussie" Clarke. The latter oversaw Isaacs' gorgeous cover of Dobby Dobson's "Loving Pauper," just one of the exquisite romantic numbers found here. The self-produced title track is arguably even more glorious, while "Once Ago" is an equal classic. The Crooks-overseen "Dread Locks Love Affair" took romance into the Rastafarian realm, with Isaacs urging his love to ignore her weeping parents and fall for him, while the lovely "My Religion" urged the baldheads to convert. As strong as these numbers were, the cultural ones were even more potent. Whether he was warning the wicked to keep out of "Rasta Business," telling "Mr. Cop" to cool down, or pleading with his "Jailer Jailer," Isaacs' sharp lyrics and emotive performances made these all instant classics. On the Campbell-produced "Black Against Black," the singer decried the violence sweeping his nation, noting what an improvement it would be if his black brethren became "Warriors" and joined the real battle. That latter number, incidentally, was a rousing self-produced cover of a Junior Delgado song. True to its title, this set was stuffed with classic numbers, with backings provided by the likes of the Aggrovators, the Revolutionaries, the Soul Syndicate Band, and the Upsetters. A sensational set. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released October 8, 2014 | Cleopatra Records

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1990 | Virgin Records

As good as it gets, though after a while Isaacs falters. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Reggae - Released September 11, 2015 | Trojan Records

Gregory Isaacs' death in 2010 robbed Jamaica of one of its greatest lovers rock voices. Ever graceful and ever prolific, and seemingly a music industry all to himself, Isaacs smoothly navigated the Kingston waters from the roots era through the dancehall era, all without changing much of what he did. This two-disc set makes a nice in-depth introduction to the singer, with disc one (called Extra Classic) covering the years 1970 to 1978 and the second (Cream of the Crop) covering the years 1979 to 1985. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Reggae - Released May 5, 1987 | Tad's Record

One of Jamaica's most prolific and revered singers, Gregory Isaacs cemented his reputation by the early '80s with this fine record. Featuring his favored backing band of the time, the Roots Radics, More Gregory finds the singer working his smooth dancehall magic on ten solid tracks. Foregoing the help of one of the many talented producers on the island, Isaacs wrote, arranged, and produced this album by himself. And neglecting his usual balance of lovers and cultural material, Isaacs fills up the program with dim-the-lights classics like "Hush Darling," "Confirm Reservation," and the steppers-light classic "Substitute." The contrasting material that is included, though, is of the highest quality: both the ghetto freedom side "The Fugitive" and the bittersweet breakup song "Once Ago" qualify as two of Isaacs' most memorable songs. With the superbly compact contributions of the Radics topping things off -- special mention goes to drummer "Style" Scott and keyboard maestro "Steelie" Johnson -- More Gregory fits snug with many crucial titles the lonely lover released during his 1975-1985 prime. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Reggae - Released July 12, 1977 | VP Records

The Cool Ruler is not known primarily as a cultural roots singer. Instead, his bread and butter has always been a particular brand of seductive lover's rock, always delivered at languid tempos in a reedy, not-particularly-attractive voice. So the largely political content of Mr. Isaacs, while not unprecedented, was still something of a departure from the norm when it was originally released in the '70s on the Jamaican Cash & Carry label. It succeeds for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the rock-solid playing of the Revolutionaries. But Gregory deserves credit for understanding that trenchant political statements are sometimes most effective when delivered with the least amount of drama. The lines "I was given as a sacrifice/To build a black man's hell and a white man's paradise" are all the more biting when sung in Gregory's cool, lilting tenor-lesser interpreters would have clenched up and emoted; he lets the words speak for themselves and offers a vocal counterpoint instead of hammering the message home. "Story Book Children" is sweet and wistful; "Handcuff," like "Sacrifice," simmers with quiet outrage. And there are a couple of love songs, too, just so you don't forget you're listening to the Lonely Lover. Excellent. © Rick Anderson /TiVo
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Reggae - Released February 24, 2017 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1990 | Virgin Records

Having grabbed up some of the hottest artists in Jamaica, Britain's Frontline label, an imprint of Virgin Records, launched onto the scene with a stream of spectacular reggae albums. That was in 1978; two years later, however, having thrilled U.K. fans with their output, the imprint closed up shop. Reactivated as a reissues label in 1990, Frontline promptly began making their marvelous catalog available again -- but only in part. Cool Ruler/Soon Forward -- Selection is a telling example of the label's egregious modus operandi. Rather than separately reissuing these two classic Gregory Isaacs albums (from 1978 and 1979, respectively), Frontline culled seven tracks off of each, mixed them up willy-nilly, slapped them on a CD, and sent the resulting mishmash to the shops. Of course, as both sets were masterpieces, the song selector couldn't have picked wrong if he tried, but why choose to begin with? Why not make both albums available, rather than leaving fans frothing in fury and frustration. A decade later, the error of Frontline's ways became evident, and both Cool Ruler and Soon Forward were reissued separately in their entirety, but only after myriad fans had shelled out for this original truncated compilation. It was a pointless exercise in sheer obstreperousness. Reggae aficionados deserved better from the get-go, and so did Frontline's artists. But there you have it. It's a great set, but only the severely economically disadvantaged should shell out for it -- buy the full albums instead. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released July 1, 1991 | Greensleeves Records

No Contest? Of course it wasn't. Everybody's a winner here on Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs' follow-up to Judge Not. Five years had passed in the interim; digitized rhythms now ruled the dancehalls, and few offered up such sizzling ones as Gussie Clarke, who oversaw both sets. And what made this new album particularly enticing is that appended the superb dub to each vocal track. The duo's "Big All Around" proved to be just that, as the pair pay tribute to the reign of the raggamuffins, and were rewarded with a dancehall smash, while the fiery dub incinerated all before it. Incidentally, Isaacs recorded a fine solo version of this number for Clarke this same year for his I.O.U. album, and then revived it in later years under the title "Raggamuffin." The driving "Easy Life" is nearly as good, as the men test their girls' fidelity and the backing band steamroll across the rhythm. "Jealousy," another song that Isaacs would take solo, is equally intense, with an almost malevolent atmosphere licking around the grooves, while the duo strut their most impassioned vocals. "Why Cry" is more sophisticated but less infectious, yet still showcases the pair's emotive styles. Isaacs drew the short straw, and thus only receives two solo tracks, but the buoyant "Open Up" more than makes up for that, with a strong performance from the singer, backed by gorgeous rocksteady-esque harmonies. Brown, meanwhile, is at his most soulful on "I'll Make It Up to You," gives a timely warning of the dangers of club life on the disco-fied "Neon Lights Flashing," but is at his most powerful on the passionate "No Camouflage," where Clarke makes an old roots rhythm new, and vividly proves that ragga can be very dread indeed. It's a superb set, and between Clarke's inspired rhythms -- laid down by the likes of the Browne brothers, Robbie Lyn and Dwight Pinkney, and the duo's superb performances, No Contest is a knock-out. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1992 | Trojan Records

Like a prism, over the years Gregory Isaacs has reflected virtually every aspect of the contemporary Jamaican music scene, from bouncy reggae to deepest roots, gentlest lovers rock to toughest dancehall. Pardon Me!, however, is arguably his most vivacious, and the backing 809 band revel in the opportunities, reeling out bright and brash accompaniments, all upbeat and slathered with melody. Isaacs has reason to be in a grand mood, the story of why begins with "Christmas Behind the Bars," a miserable place indeed to spend the festive season. But none of that is reflected in the breezy accompaniment, even as the singer recalls the indignities and sorrows of his prison experience. For that's all behind him, since the "Judge and Jury" found him not guilty, putting Isaacs in a celebratory mood. No wonder then that even a run-in with "Mister Cop" can't dampen his spirits, and it's left to guesting DJ Macka B to add a touch of gravidas to the situation. That latter number is a splendid calypso-tinged recut of Isaacs' 1976 Lee Perry produced classic, "House of the Rising Sun" is a cover of the traditional blues masterpiece, the only somber song on the set. It's also one of the stand-outs, boasting one of Isaacs' most extraordinary performances. In a much lighter mood is the bouncy title track, where the singer much to his embarrassment discovers he can't cover the restaurant bill. Perhaps Isaacs' should be asking his date to open up her wallet instead of begging her to "Open Up Your Heart". Besides, any man who dedicates the heartfelt "Pride & Dignity" to his own mom, and mothers everywhere, deserves to be cut some slack. By the time this album is over you'll agree that Isaacs will indeed "Kill Them with Music," while Dean Fraser is equally adept at slaying them with his sax. This song, which kicks off the set, beautifully sets the stage with its infectious melody, breezy backing, and sweet harmonies. Isaacs has released some soul-less sets in recent years, but this irresistible album wipes the slate clean. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1990 | Heartbeat

This is the first of four albums the Heartbeat label has released featuring Gregory Isaacs' work with producer Alvin Ranglin (the other three are Love Is Overdue, The Best of Gregory Isaacs, Vol. 1, and The Best of Gregory Isaacs, Vol. 2, with the latter pair since repackaged as a single disc). The producer was responsible for giving the singer his first number one hit, "Love Is Overdue," in 1974, and their partnership remained particularly fruitful, but not exclusive. So while much of the best of Isaacs' mid- to late-'70s work can be found across this and the other aforementioned albums, there's other equally stunning material still out there from this period. That said, another qualification needs to be made: Many of the hits included here are not the original versions, but either extended mixes or alternate takes. But don't think that makes My Number One of interest to collectors only. You may not get the single version of the title track, but in its stead comes Trinity's spectacular DJ version, and it's not to be missed. Nor is U-Brown's fiery version of "Border." DJ Ranking Barnabbas takes on two further songs, including a fabulous version of "Tumbling Tears." Also of interest is an alternate take of "Lonely Days." The rest of the record is fleshed out by original 45s, including the superb "Philistines" and a few tracks culled from albums also produced by Ranglin. To say this is Isaccs at his height would merely slight his equally powerful later work, but this is certainly a clutch of crucial cuts from one of Jamaica's greatest artists. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Reggae - Released April 22, 2010 | Greensleeves Records