It's been estimated that Gregory Isaacs has released close to 500 albums, including compilations and foreign releases, as for singles, few but the very brave or foolish would even venture a guess. Picking through this veritable deluge of discs is a Sisphyean task, by the time you've chosen, another batch of albums have hit the racks.
Like many budget compilations, The Prime of Gregory Isaacs infuriates by it's dispiriting lack of information, the sleevenotes actually devote more space to the artist's horoscope than the songs, always a bad sign. But that aside, this is actually a pretty decent collection.
The album draws exclusively from Isaacs' early solo career, 1973-6, and includes both self-productions as well as cuts for a variety of different producers including Alvin Ranglin, Sidney Crooks, Gussie Clarke, and Niney "The Observer" Holness.
Along the way, the 16 strong song set picks up Isaac's first Jamaican chart topper, "Love Is Overdue", and a clutch of other classics "My Time" (aka "To Be A Man", "Loving Pauper", "Bad Da" (aka "Ba Da"), "Lonely Lover", and "Help Us Get Over". Three tracks - "Time," "Pauper" and the simmering "Never Be Ungrateful," feature in their stunning extended/dub versions, and are particularly welcome inclusions.
Isaacs cut a treasure trove of singles during this period, but beyond the aforementioned ones, unfortunately the majority of those gems are not found here, and while the remainder of this album certainly isn't second rate, it's not quite top drawer either. There again, no single disc could really do justice to this period, however there are better comps available, and Prime is best used to flesh out a collection rather than start one.