The Winner ~ The Roots Of Gregory Isaacs 1974-1978
Gregory Isaacs
May 20, 2007

Track list
  1. Another Heartbreak
  2. Don't Let Me Suffer (The Concords)
  3. Buttoo (The Concords)
  4. Too Late
  5. Grow Closer Together
  6. Set Back
  7. Where There Is Life
  8. Be Careful
  9. Another Heartache
  10. Happiness Come
  11. No Forgiveness
  12. Lonely Days
  13. Something Nice
  14. Dance With Me
  15. Don't Believe In Him
  16. Village Of The Underprivileged
  17. Looking Back
  18. Sinner Man
  19. Give A Hand
  20. Help Us To Get Over
  21. Beautiful Africa
  22. Smile
  23. Storm
  24. Winner
  25. Motherless Children
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
Trojan are pulling out all the stops in May and June, and "The Winner" is a near perfect selection. Those of you who fear it might be little more than an abbreviated collection reprising their earlier "Cool Ruler Definitive Collection" of a few years back have little to worry about. There are some real rare scorchers here, and it's first rate from start to finish -- not a filler track in sight here.

The early tunes like "Another Heartbreak" and "Don't Let Me Suffer" are clearly influenced by 1950's US R n B, Doo Wop and country traditions, whilst later the styles morph into early Rocksteady, then Gregory's deeply original and distinctive Lover's / Roots fusions like "Be Careful" and "Another Heartache" dominate -- No one does this style quite like Isaacs -- and therein lies his deep, unique contribution to the reggae genre.

Later contributions on the album express a deeply personal and powerful social awareness, replete with deep insight into the bitter struggle to survive and overcome limitation and poverty. "Give A Helping Hand" exhorts the listener to show love and kindness to the fallen, powerless and humble, whilst "Help Us Get Over" hands over responsibility to a higher power, perhaps in frustration and anger at an impoverished, depleted life :

"Tell us how long will it take to get over? This life we live in misery. All that we see along the journey, my people are branded with poverty."

However, it wouldn't be like Isaacs to end on a pessimistic, indulgent note, and the penultimate track, "The Winner" sees him back in confident, strident form, describing in a metaphorical narrative clearly born from the battles of life, how he has entered the lion's den of conflict, and emerged triumphant, pure, clean and whole, ready to take on the challenges thrown at him.

The near perfect compilation closes with a blistering dub with deeply sophisticated drum patterns from Sly Dunbar.

Don't miss "The Winner", and the new Tommy McCook & Aggrovators dub album out of Trojan over the next few months -- Not a bad track in evidence on both albums.