Music Reviews

Gregory Isaacs

Night Nurse


This is the Gregory Isaacs album that people know the best, thanks to the ultra-famous title track, a big hit in 1982. This song, one of the greatest singles in reggae history, sums Isaacs up in four minutes better than any anthology ever could: he’s hurt by this awful cruel world, he needs someone to fix his broken heart, it’s a case of emergency, who can help him? “Night nurse / Only you alone can quench this here thirst!” Oh it’s smooth, oh he’s got such a melancholy sleepy voice, oh those Roots Radics can bring the beautiful easy-rockin’ stuff like no other backing band.

So what if the next two songs sound just about the same as “Night Nurse”? They’re still great. So what if Isaacs does a song called “Hot Stepper” that actually slows things down from that beat as Isaacs takes on the persona of the single most laid-back fugitive of all time? So what if “Sad to Know You’re Leaving” closes things off with one of Isaac’s least convincing laments? I mean, come on – this record has “Night Nurse” on it, dammit!

I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t some interesting things here. “Material Man” is a stunner, denouncing those who would glorify the things of this world over the ways of Rastafari: “I know you wasn’t around when I was slaving myself / Yet you sit back and relaxed and you took all the wealth.” In “Cool Down the Pace,” Isaacs is able to show his more humorous side in a tale of not being able to keep up with a hot-dancing woman. And although “Not The Way” has just about the cutest little beat behind it, it’s dead serious in its indictment of male sexism. Isaacs ran deep, and even his more innocent-sounding songs (“Objection Overruled,” “Stranger in Town”) have something to them that you might not catch right away.

Appended to this great-sounding re-issue are three kick-ass dubs by Paul “Groucho” Smykle (“Night Nurse Dub 2” is particularly spooky with its Sputnik sound effects) and an eight-minute mix of “Cool Down the Pace.” Overall, this is another great Isaacs re-issue, with informative notes by David Katz and a crucial song called “Night Nurse.” I did mention that, didn’t I?

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