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Album Review

Jamaican producers seemed determined to tempt fate by titling albums in particularly misleading fashion. The most infamous, of course, was the Wailers' 1971 debut album, which like this Gregory Isaacs set was also brashly entitled Best Of. Neither quite lived up to its claims, nor were they even compilations — both featured mostly new material with a few recent singles thrown in for good measure. In Isaacs' case, there were a mere two hits to be found within — "Look Before You Leap" and the mighty "My Number One" — and everything else was new. But then everything about this set was unexpected, including the productions. Producer Alvin Ranglin was renowned for his gentle, rural-flavored riddims, but with the Revolutionaries in tow, Ranglin went into Channel One Studio and had them lay down one of his toughest-sounding sets. Of course, by the band's own standard it's pretty laid-back, but there's an edginess to the riddims that cuts through the sweetness of the melodies and the rather lavish arrangements. Isaacs recorded a slew of excellent songs for Ranglin during the mid-'70s, and these truthfully are indeed many of the best. There's the seductive "Special Guest," the rootsy perfection of "No Speech," the exquisite pain of "Tear Drops," the gorgeous Motown-flavored "Breaking Up," a sublime cover of "Willow Tree," and the splendidly indignant "Double Attack," with the Tamlins providing sublime harmonies across the set. Best of all is the haunting "Cool You," the riddim dread in delivery but swept away by its exotic Far East flavors. In fact, there's not a song on the record that didn't deserve single status. And indeed four more hits would be born from this set. It's still not a career-spanning best-of comp for Isaacs, but it's certainly some of the best he cut for Ranglin during this period.


Born: 15 July 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of Jamaica's most beloved vocalists who was as pertinent in dancehalls as he was in bedrooms, Gregory Isaacs' career stretched over 30 years. From the heady days of reggae through lovers rock, a genre he virtually invented, his talent reached into the modern age. Born in the Fletcher's Land area of Kingston, Jamaica, on July 15, 1951, Isaacs arrived in the music business via the talent show circuit, a tried and true formula for many of the island's budding singing stars. Byron Lee was the first...
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The Best of Gregory Isaacs, Vol. 1, Gregory Isaacs
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