Gregory Isaacs

Mr. Love

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A rather mistitled compilation, as Mr. Love contains a clutch of non-love/lovelorn songs. There again, it's easy to overlook the fact that Gregory Isaacs recorded a slew of phenomenal roots cuts during the late '70s and into the early '80s. A good number of them appeared on the Pre and Frontline labels. The latter released three Isaacs albums during this period, all of which disappeared without a trace. Thankfully, the label bundled up a bumper 21 tracks from those records for this collection, which received U.S. release via Caroline. All self-produced, bar "Soon Forward" -- which was overseen by Sly & Robbie (and launched their Taxi label), who were also the rhythm powerhouse on this entire album -- many of these tracks were Jamacian and U.K. hits, and deservedly so. But there's also a number that never saw either side of a 45, and it says much about the quality of all these songs, that virtually every song here could have been. Wisely the roots numbers, dance songs, and lovers tracks are kept separate, which gives Mr. Love the feel of a real album, as compared to a mere compilation. Picking out the highlights is an exercise in futility, but, amongst the roots numbers, the ferocious "Black Liberation Struggle," the amazingly jaunty "Mr. Brown," the sufferer's tale "Poor and Clean," and the stunning "Universal Tribulation" are all crucial cuts. For lovers there's the gorgeous "John Public," the haunting "Native Woman," the emotive rockers gem "Poor Millionaire," and the aforementioned "Soon Forward," one of the most quietly contagious songs ever written. But choosing between these 21 phenomenal songs is truly masochistic -- luckily, you'll have no need to.

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