Last year when Gregory Isaacs died of lung cancer only 59 years old I put together a list with some of my favorite songs with the man called the Cool Ruler.
Almost all of these ten tunes – and about another 30 – are collected on the brand new compilation The Ruler, which also includes a DVD with a live performance at the Brixton Academy in London in 1984.
Gregory Isaacs certainly had one of the most distinctive and most recognizable voices in reggae music. He was vulnerable and intimate and always sounded like he had just been left by his woman for another man.
This smooth and crooning approach was particularly well-suited for heartfelt ballads, and Gregory Isaacs was a pioneer in the lovers rock genre with the gentle My Only Lover.
But he had another, more rootsy, side too. And he always sang those songs in the same honest and sensitive tone. Always easy-skanking and mellow, regardless of the lyrical content.
Both of these sides of him are showcased on The Ruler. It includes material from the early 70’s and his debut album All I Have is Love up until the 90’s and his momentous collaboration with producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke.
During these years Gregory Isaacs managed to work with several of the most acclaimed Jamaican producers and musicians. But he has also made a considerable amount of crucial self-productions. The Ruler includes both, which makes this compilation a thorough and worthwhile summary of Gregory Isaacs’ legacy.