Released 1977 on DEB Records
Reissued 2001 on Blood & Fire (BAFCD 035)
3 story book children
6 take a dip featuring Dillinger*
7 get ready
8 set the captives free
9 the winner
11 mr brown extended*
13 mr know it all*
14 war of the stars*
*BONUS TRACKS added to original album
Producer : Gregory Isaacs & Ossie Hibbert
Engineer : Ossie Hibbert
Backing Vocals : The Heptones
Backing Band : The Revolutionaries
Recording : Channel One (Kingston, JA)
Mixing : Errol Thompson’s (Kingston, JA)
Voice Recording : Errol Thompson’s (Kingston, JA)
Review from Mojo:
Reggae Reissue Album Of The Month Originally released here on Dennis Brown’s DEB label in ’77, “Mr Isaacs” has subsequently been available on various weird, woefully packaged Jamaican / European CDs. Predating his honey-tonsilled loverman phase by a couple of years, this was Gregory’s first attempt at recording a whole album in one go. Here is a militant rootsman, firng off broadsides against social injustice on songs like Set The Captives Free and Slavemaster, the classic tune he delivered in the Rockers movie. In this context, covers of Smokey Robinson’s Get Ready and even Story Book Children (yes, the Roger Whittaker one) sound like natural anthems of ghetto suffering, Isaacs’ voice quavering with the anguish he’d later use to evoke his lady troubles. With five bonus tracks including Dillinger’s DJ cut of “Slavemaster” and an extended Mr Brown, it’s essential stuff. AP, Mojo (UK) April 2001
The Cool Ruler left us today, 59 years young. This post is my way of offering a eulogy. A great record and a great reissue, although I wish Blood & Fire had left the Dillinger version of ‘Slavemaster’ until *after* the original album sequence and tacked it on with the other bonus material. That’s all I am going to say about this for now. Isaac’s name and reputation is enough, as are the other players on this album.
Here is a nice obituary published in The Guardian:
Gregory Isaacs obituary
Reggae musician known as the Cool Ruler who scored a big hit with Night Nurse
guardian.co.uk, Monday 25 October 2010 18.44 BST
Gregory Isaacs, who has died of cancer aged 59, was one of reggae music’s most popular singers. Known as the Cool Ruler for his exceptionally suave and emotive voice, Isaacs scored many hits during the 1970s and 80s, including the perennial favourite Night Nurse, and remained active as a recording artist, live performer and producer in the decades that followed. Although best known for romantic ballads, delivered with a hint of vulnerability, he also excelled at songs of social protest and work that expressed unwavering pride in his African heritage. However, his long-term drug use and involvement in criminal activity led to long periods of incarceration and repeated arrests, hastening his physical decline.
Isaacs was born in Fletcher’s Land, a particularly neglected patch of the ghetto in the Jamaican capital, Kingston. His father left for the US during his childhood, so Gregory and his younger brother, Sylvester, were raised by their mother in the rough streets of nearby Denham Town. Showing a natural aptitude for singing, Isaacs began making an impact on talent contests during his teens (often as a duo with Sylvester). He was inspired by stars such as Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, as well as local acts including Alton Ellis and the Melodians, but named his mother as his first vocal role model, since he used to hear her singing while she ironed.
In 1968, Isaacs recorded and produced a duet, Another Heartache, with an aspiring singer from the neighbourhood, Winston Sinclair, but the song sank without a trace. His next effort, Ballroom Floor, was recorded for Prince Buster, after receiving a personal recommendation from a local gangster, Lester Lloyd Coke (aka Jim Brown). In the same era, Isaacs sold marijuana on behalf of Toddy Livingston, father of the singer Bunny Wailer.
Isaacs subsequently formed a trio, the Concords, with two other hopefuls, recording a number of impressive tunes for Rupie Edwards in 1969, of which the most notable was Don’t Let Me Suffer. Other stirring solo singles, such as Too Late and Lonely Man, followed. By 1970 he had formed the independent label African Museum with a fellow singer, Errol Dunkley. They found instant success with Dunkley’s Movie Star and Isaacs’s moderately popular My Only Lover (featuring the Wailers’ backing band), before Dunkley broke away to found his own label. Isaacs’s first substantial hit, All I Have Is Love, was produced by a perceptive downtown promoter, Phil Pratt, in 1973. The following year, he scored an even bigger hit with Love Is Overdue, the first of several for the producer Alvin “GG” Ranglin, who soon issued Isaacs’s debut album, In Person (1975).
As his songwriting skills matured, Isaacs shifted focus to address social injustice, in work that expressed longing for his ancestral African homeland, and grew dreadlocks as a sign of his commitment to the Rastafari faith. At Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio, he cut the anthem-like Mr Cop in 1976 and the censorious Black Against Black, which decried self-destructive ghetto violence. After the release of the self-produced concept album, Mr Isaacs (1977), he received a major career boost in 1978 by signing to Virgin Records for the album Cool Ruler and making an appearance in the feature film Rockers. The 1979 Virgin follow-up, Soon Forward, included the chart-topping Mr Brown and a popular title track which was one of the first recordings to make use of the production skills of Sly and Robbie.
A shift to Charisma Records’ subsidiary Pre in 1980 brought the album Lonely Lover and its follow-up, More Gregory, the latter featuring the Jamaican chart success Top Ten. Both albums were backed by the Roots Radics band, with whom Isaacs toured the UK in 1980-81. Night Nurse (1982), issued by Island, was his most commercially successful set to date, but just as he reached a pinnacle of popularity, problems arose. He was imprisoned in Jamaica following the discovery of an unlicensed firearm at his home, and he also served time for cocaine possession. He addressed his experiences of prison in the subsequent Island release, Out Deh! (1983).
After recording the relaxed Private Beach Party album for the producer Gussie Clarke in 1985, he cut less impressive work for a number of relatively unknown producers. Then, in 1987, another cocaine bust prompted him to go into rehab. This was followed by a more productive period that peaked with the release of Red Rose for Gregory (1988), a hit dancehall album issued by Clarke, and featuring the outstanding single, Rumours.
Although Isaacs would score a few more Jamaican chart hits, record for the British label Acid Jazz, open a recording studio in Jamaica, and launch the singing career of his son Kevin, he continued to use drugs. This resulted in several patchy releases, the loss of a number of his teeth, and a reputation for unreliability. Nevertheless, he maintained a loyal fan base, both at home in Jamaica and overseas.
He is survived by his wife Linda and several children.
• Gregory Anthony Isaacs, singer, so
ngwriter and record producer, born 15 July 1951; died 25 October 2010
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