Amazingly "Universal Tribulation" was never released as a single, one of the few tracks from Gregory Isaacs' Soon Forward set not to receive that honor. Frontline, his UK label, had probably by then already given up hope on a break-out hit from the artist, but that doesn't explain why it wasn't unleashed in Jamaica, where other songs off the album were setting the chart on fire.
It was certainly an odd decision, considering this was one of the best tracks on the set. Overseen by Sly & Robbie, it boasts a sparkling Revolutionaries accompaniment, Gladstone "Gladdy" Anderson's jaunty keyboard line colliding with Dunbar's militant beats and Leroy Sibbles palpitating bass line. It's a rich arrangement, fleshed out with lashings of percussion, layers of keyboards and riffing guitar, while the dense sound still has an upbeat ambience seemingly at odds with Isaacs' sufferer's theme.
"I feel it and I know it," the singer insists, and his conviction rings true, one believes that he indeed feels every blow. Yet, in best sufferer's tradition, even amongst all the tribulation, Isaacs battles on, refusing to give in or give up.
He has made the sufferer's heartaches his own, and his performance comes straight from the soul. Behind him Sibbles, Dennis Brown and Junior Delgado join their voices in support, and their backing harmonies gives the song an almost funky, R&B flavor that adds a universal sound to this song.
Never a hit, but an acknowledged classic regardless.