Mr. Issacs (Blood & Fire)
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., July 13, 2001
Mr. Isaacs (Blood & Fire)If you want a clue as to where Gregory Isaacs earned his esteemed moniker as reggae's "Cool Ruler," look no further than this terrific reissue of primo rockers-era, politically conscious roots music. Unlike the toothless mediocrity he continues to release on a regular basis to this day, Mr. Isaacs catches Gregory at or darn near the peak of his patently rueful prowess. Years before he became a lover's rock icon in the Eighties, Isaacs was primarily in militant mode, spurred by Jamaica's late-Seventies political turmoil. Songs like "Sacrifice," "Handcuff," "Slavemaster," and especially "Set the Captives Free" give voice to the tumultuous spirit of the times, albeit delivered in Isaacs' relaxed, passionately dispassionate style, one that contrasts strikingly to the incessant and high-stepping riddems laid down by the Revolutionaries and Soul Syndicate. Perhaps as a preview of directions to come, Isaacs also covers love songs like the Temptations' "Get Ready" and the Silvertones' Studio One chestnut "Smile." The icing on the cake, however, comes with the inclusion of several righteous bonus tracks, the best being "Take a Dip," an herb-praising DJ version of "Slavemaster" by Dillinger, and both sides of the original 12-inch release, "Mr. Know It All," with the riveting riddem-a-ning and cymbal-slashing of drummer Sly Dunbar. Like everything else from Blood & Fire, this handsome and factually informative release is worth seeking out.