Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs

Out Deh!

Island

This was the first album Isaacs worked on and released after getting out of jail on trumped-up gun charges in 1983, and for that reason it’s incredibly important to both Isaacs freaks and reggae historians. And it’s a very good record, too; “Private Secretary” is an even sexier version of his huge hit “Night Nurse,” if you can imagine that; “Sheila” and “Star” are sad break-up songs, while “Yes I Do” and “Love Me With Feeling” are celebrations of the comforts of romance.

The real standout tracks here are the ones that allude to his incarceration and release (“Good Morning”) or the ones that discuss it directly, like “Dieting” and the title track. “Dieting” might be the most intense track Isaacs recorded during this stage of his career, with lines like “I’m a man and I’ve got to go / I don’t know when I’m gonna get paroled / But I’m-a one day / One day closer to home.” And there is no excuse for you not knowing “Out Deh,” where he tells the whole story of being held at General Penetentiary (Jamaica’s worst prison) and really makes you feel the tedium and depression of lockup: “They took my rights away and gave me wrongs” is my favorite Isaacs line ever.

But if you only own one record by “The Cool Ruler,” this should not be it. The overdubbed synths are too syrupy, the love songs aren’t as convincing as on many of his other albums, and the whole thing (even counting the bonus single and the additional rub-a-dub mix of “Love Me With Feeling”) only clocks in at 41 minutes. Try Night Nurse or More Gregory first, or one of the really early albums, and then try this one.

Universal Chronicles: http://www.universalchronicles.com

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