I know absolutely nothing about reggae music—I just know I like (some of) it. And the way I got into Gregory Isaacs, prolific as he is, is the most ass-backwards way one could possibly imagine: It was after I heard Mos Def reference him in his song "Ms. Fat Booty"—really!
But you really don't have to know anything about reggae music to know the works of Gregory Isaacs. Considered one of the top three best-known reggae artists to hit the mainstream, Isaacs got his start in Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1970s, and not long after, he became one of the most respected recording artists in his homeland. While Isaacs' music masterfully executed the spiritual principles of Rastafarian roots reggae (which was championed by everyone from Lee "Scratch" Perry to Coxsone Dodd), he was also more than proficient at the U.K.-based "lovers rock" subgenre of reggae—the more commercial counterpoint to roots.
Many fans consider the albums Isaacs recorded and released in the 1970s to be his best—In Person, Extra Classic, Mr. Isaacs—but 1982's Cool Nurse may be his most commercially successful to date, though many chalk that up to the fact the album was released through an international release contract with Island Records . . . which brought many new (white) fans to the genre. While that's pretty laughable, I guess—that was the first album I listened to, so take that as you will—the Roots Radics were the backing band for Isaacs on Cool Nurse. Featuring bass player Flabba Holt and guitarist Bingy Bunny, the Roots Radics were a studio and stage band that is still held in pretty high esteem by many. The band later went on to support other acts such as Bunny Wailer and Israel Vibration. Some even credit the Roots Radics for their help in the creation of Jamaican dancehall.
And though it's been almost 20 years since Isaacs' recordings with the legendary King Tubby, he's back for another go—and in Disneyland's back yard. And Eek-a-Mouse is opening. Disneyland and Eek-a-Mouse? Eh, eh?
Gregory Isaacs with Eek-a-Mouse at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-BLUE; www.hob.com. Wed., 7 p.m. $12.99-$15. All ages.