“We Remember Gregory” is a 2 CD tribute to the late cool ruler, Gregory Isaacs put together as a humble mission by sax maestro Dean Fraser. CD 1 features vocal versions by a whole heap of singers, and CD 2 Dean blowing some very interpretative versions of the same songs. I have always felt Dean Fraser is vastly underrated as an instrumentalist, and on this release he shines by talking through the songs in his own playing voice. Who could ever forget such as, his amazing version of ‘Redemption Song’ on ‘Pumpin Air’. I had the pleasure of seeing it live at Sunsplash-Crystal Palace, and what a spiritual experience it was.
Back to the singers though – always felt that none could sing Gregory like Gregory and for many years in fact for the decade of the 80’s Gregory was my favourite singer. The Cool Ruler crooned about love and expressed the plight of the dispossessed. He was a unique showman as well, one of the hardest working entertainers to have ever graced the mic.
So I have always found it hard to accept any one else singing Gregory. I felt Simply Red simply murdered ‘Nightnurse’. And that’s what makes the vocal disk of this CD such a challenge. How does any one cover a Gregory Isaacs song? I know it is a tribute, put together for the love by Dean Fraser, a man who worked with Gregory consistently on the stage and in the studio but it is such an epic mountain to climb.
I would never dream of giving anything Dean Fraser plays on a thumbs down because he is such a consistent artist and producer. But there is a feeling of blandness on some of the vocal versions, with one or two exceptions, and generally, the women vocalists, including Etana, Cherine Anderson, and Alaine come out on top, evocative, and really interpreting the tunes in their own unique ways. Too many of the male vocalists, with the exception of J Boog on “Cool Down The Pace” sound weaker by comparison to the ladies on the release. And”‘Cool Down The Pace” is not the easiest of tunes to do because Gregory was so simple on it, crooning half the song in an almost whispered spoken style in the ear of a rub a dub partner. But J Boog pulls it off with finesse. In a way I feel many of the male singers, which include Gyptian, Taurrus Riley and Jah Cure, to name just 3, are not giving that 100% factor which they are all capable of on their own wicked and very successful tunes.
So a mixed response from me. Its worth getting this for the versions, which Dean Fraser handles with such class, and for the vocals by Etana, who sounds like Etana interpreting Gregory but from a woman’s point of view. I also rank the version of ‘Tune In’ by Alaine – which achieves the same kind of quality and feeling as the original but from a woman’s view… Seems like the future of Jamaican vocalists, at least, for now is in the hands of the sisters….And I can just see Gregory smiling at that one from the heavens 🙂
Big Up Dean Fraser!!!