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IT’S SINGULAR how Gregory Isaac releases a better number of tunes as good as ‘Night Nurse’ over the past decade and longer, and as good a number of better, yet never achieves the merit Single of the Week, nor usually so much as a review of any kind, until his debut for Island Records, but we’ll let that pass for now.
Mr Isaacs sustains an exalted position in reggae music. Only Dennis Brown consistently emulates his success, with the Yellowman currently as popular as both and Bunny Wailer well to the fore too for the most part, though the latter’s recent funk excursion harmed his reputation a bit amongst aficionados and caused some few discontented grumblings. In the fantasy world of the rock media, however, coverage of reggae music is generally reserved for the likes of Steel Pulse, Third World, Black Uhuru and similar Island associated acts, little of whose music is to be heard anywhere on the club and dub circuit, although Denzil at Columbo’s used to rub Third World’s ‘Now That We’ve Found Love’ a few years back during his soul spot; while the aforementioned artists, the true delegates, attract but scant attention. We’ll let this pass as well.
As much is likely to change now for Gregory Isaacs, even though the Night Nurse album represents no departure of any kind whatsoever from the singer. Personally, I require only a limited selection of one artist’s work in my life, as a man’s single vision palls upon extensive reprise, and in my opinion the creative impulse of Gregory Isaacs in recent times lacks comparatively with earlier achievements. He is too inclined to drawl somnolently these days, a cool, suggestive pose that has been perfected nearly to the point of self parody; whereas previously he used to stretch his voice, never markedly you understand, but indeed to sing out with some certain emphasis.
Still, it remains a most pleasant noise. I cannot fault either the songs, their arrangement or production. In fact, Night Nurse indicates a definite improvement on much of Mr Isaacs’ immediately antecedent material; with ‘Hot Stepper’, ‘Objection Overuled’ and ‘Material Man’ my own preferred of the eight titles. And of course ‘Night Nurse’ itself, with the sly lyric: “I don’t wanna see no doc. I need attendance from my nurse around the clock. There’s no prescription for me, she’s my only remedy.”
If you are not familiar with the voice of Gregory Isaacs I recommend you listen here, but advise your location of his GG Best Of… or the extra classic Extra Classic for greater reference.
© Penny Reel, 1982
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