Music News

Critic's Choice

Gregory Isaacs, Sunday, December 12, at the Fox Theatre, has two traits that are common to many exceptional musicians, one of them unfortunate: He's got a voice of pure-spun gold and a substance-abuse problem to match. Call it Murphy's Law of Great Musicians. Isaacs is perhaps the best-known practitioner of lovers' rock, a smooth, crooning style of reggae he pioneered in the Seventies and continues to develop on his curiously titled new album, Dapper Slapper. Widely hailed as the "Cool Ruler," Isaacs is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Marvin Gaye, and the comparison is apt. Like Gaye, his silken tenor slides effortlessly between two favored themes: romantic love and conscientious social protest. What's more, Isaacs has maintained a high level of quality throughout his more than seventy albums, a mind-boggling feat in the not-always-quality-conscious genre of reggae. More than any other Jamaican singer, Isaacs has a voice whose luster is not diminished by evolving styles of reggae. His fluid style lends itself equally to both the seductive daydreams of his underappreciated 1996 album, Looking Back, and the snappier material on his new release. Isaacs's health and legal issues wouldn't merit a mention if they hadn't compromised previous performances. The singer failed to show up for a Boulder gig earlier this year and, more recently, could not be located by his record company to be interviewed for the feature article he deserves. Reports from other shows on the current tour, however, indicate that he is in good form and therefore worth risking the price of a ticket. But if anyone is known for leaving a trail of broken hearts, it's the Cool Ruler. -- Joshua Green