Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I saw Gregory Isaacs twenty years ago at some open air reggae festival in South London. The sun was going down and we were well sorted but he was terrible, he really was: sloppy, out of tune, clearly on another planet and all over the place. So why was I captivated, because I truly was. I couldn't forget Gregory, get him out of my mind. God knows why. Actually, god mightn't have any idea why but I do....its the voice, simple. What is it about the languid, lazy, stoned and plaintiff Isaacs delivery? My first exposure to Gregory was an import copy of the Front Line collection "Soon Forward" in 1979 and it became a permanent fixture on my deck. Gregory also became a permanent fixture in my buying habits: compilations, the good and great (Out Deh, Red Rose for Gregory, Rumours, Mr Isaacs, those Charisma albums etc) and the not so good (the early to mid nineties had a few, well more than a few) and I've ended up with a shelf full of the things. I wouldn't have it any other way. Its a fairly pleasant part of my vinyl addiction. I'm not quite sure where I'm heading with this but I wanted to find a way to write wonderful things about the recent Trojan compilation, The Cool Ruler. Strangely enough Trojan have given this thing the same name as an earlier, essential, album. Maybe they felt that tagging the thing The Definitive Collection would be enough, I don't know. But this is as close to being a definitive comp as exists for Gregory. There are dozens of comps of the man out there and some are pretty good, especially the Virgin ones and some of the ones that gather together the early raw singles. And a truly definitive collection would be at least four or five discs long. But this is as good as it gets without going that far. There are big gaps, especially early on (before about 78), but it includes the fairly rare, Prince Buster produced, "Dancing Floor" and there are 12"and 10" versions galore. And, damn, its good....that voice, that voice, that voice. You need this.

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