Citrus Club, Edinburgh, Tue 20 May
Born in Kingston Jamaica in 1950, five years after Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs’ musical trajectory offers a fascinating counterpoint to the beloved Rastafarian musician. While Isaacs’ early inspirations came from Sam Cooke, Percy Sledge, Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis and Ken Boothe, he gave up a successful career as a carpenter and electrician to work with producers Winston Sinclair and Rupie Edwards and later musician Penro Bramwell in long forgotten combo The Concords. Save a few cherishable 45s (‘I Need Your Loving’, ‘Don’t Let Me Suffer’) these collaborations came to nothing. Isaacs realised it may be time to go solo.
Despite working with the mighty Prince Buster on his first solo single ‘Dancing Floor’, Isaacs’ star did not really start to shine until he established his own African Museum record label in 1973. The rest is history, as over a sequence of successful albums, Isaacs began to corner the market with his relaxed nasal singing style, love ballads and subtle pop songs of social protest.
Though best known in Europe for his hugely successful 1982 album Night Nurse and its much exploited title track, Isaacs still found himself beset by personal and legal problems around the time of its release and was even jailed in Kingston’s General Penitentiary for a while. Since then Isaacs has generally made it his policy to work with whoever will pay him. The upshot of which has been some good and some flawed collaborations over the years with King Jammy, Bobby Digital, Steely & Clevie, Redman, Sly & Robbie, Gussie Clark and King Tubby.
This one-off gig is the first of a slew of classic reggae acts performing in Scotland in coming months – including future visitations from Ranking Roger Sound System, Luciano and the Jah Messenger Band – but this is a pretty sensational start to proceedings as living dancehall legends really don’t come much bigger than Isaacs.