Gregory Isaacs

Unlocked

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An album very much of two minds which never manage to actually meet nor particularly mesh. The backing band are ready to roll, with Sly & Robbie and multi-instrumentalist Chris Meredith laying down a series of sizzling backings, and the brass section of Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson and Chico Chin chomping at the bit. "Na Lef the Dance" smokes, "You Turn Me On" turns up the heat, and the band are definitely "Ready We Ready." Unfortunately, Gregory Isaacs is not, in fact he barely rouses himself, sleepwalking his way through the first half of the set. While Isaacs and Dennis Brown both slumber through "Ready," Capleton manages to drag them out of bed for the DJ version, "Ready Pass Freddie," but that's the bonus track. Isaacs does however awaken for the sizzling "Make Sure," rising again for the glorious "Come Right Back," but for most of this set the singer continues to hit the snooze button. However, this is actually a matter of perspective, with the fault lying at the door of producers Jim and Carlton Hines, who refused to take into account Isaacs own mood before creating the rhythms. Perhaps they needed to apply a cattle prod to toughen up and accentuate the singer's performances, but they didn't, and thus his laid back deliveries just wilt under the heat of the arrangements. However, over time, the set's charm slowly emerge and the flaws begin to drop away, but should one really have to play an album half a dozen times at increasingly loud volumes to finally discover them? Stick with it, and the set is finally Unlocked, but it would have been better if Isaacs hadn't hidden the key.

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