'Gregory a shoo-in for Grammy'
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Co-chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee, Roger Steffens, believes Gregory Isaacs will win the Best Reggae Album category at the Grammy Awards.
Steffens said Isaacs, who died from lung cancer in October at age 60, is the sentimental favourite.
"Gregory will be a shoo-in. His long career certainly deserves the honour. It's got great human interest appeal," Steffens told The Gleaner last week from Los Angeles.
Isaacs Meets Isaac is the name of the 12-track album that earned the 'Cool Ruler' his fourth Grammy nomination. It is a collaboration with King Isaac, a Zimbabwean singer and longtime admirer of his music who teaches at a Michigan college.
Before The Dawn by Buju Banton, Revelation by Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Andrew Tosh's Legacy - An Acoustic Tribute to Peter Tosh, Made In Jamaica by Bob Sinclar, and Sly and Robbie's One Pop Reggae are the other nominees.
According to Steffens, who wrote the liner notes for Isaacs Meets Isaac, most of the funds that produced the set came from King Isaac, who travelled to Jamaica over five years to record with his idol.
Isaacs was last nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for the album, Brand New Me. The award, which was handed out this year, went to Stephen Marley for Mind Control Acoustic.
Isaacs' Grammy nods have been for largely sub-standard albums and were recorded some time after his heyday in the 1980s. The same can be said of other reggae acts including Dennis Brown and Freddie McGregor.
Interestingly, British singer Mick Hucknall's cover of Isaacs' monster hit Night Nurse was on Sly and Robbie's Friends album that won Best Reggae Album in 1999.
Steffens - who does not vote given his position as co-chair - has often criticised the selection process for the Best Reggae Album category, which is con-ducted by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
He said since it was granted Grammy status in 1984, most winners of the category are related or associated with reggae legend Bob Marley. Most times, reggae fans are not familiar with the nominees.
Some Reggae Grammy winners, such as Peter Tosh, were also considered sentimental victors. His No Nuclear War won in 1988, one year after he was murdered by gunmen at his St Andrew home.
Despite the criticisms, there have been popular winners including Inner Circle for Bad Boys in 1994; Shaggy's Boombastic in 1996; Sean Paul for Dutty Rock (2004); and Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley for Half-Way Tree (2002) and Welcome to Jamrock (2006).
Sly and Robbie and the eccentric Perry are the only past winners in the 2011 field. Perry, best known for his work as a producer in the 1970s, won in 2003 for the little-known Jamaican ET.
After years of lobbying by reggae interests, the NARAS finally recognised the music with a Grammy category 26 years ago. Black Uhuru's Anthem, produced by Sly and Robbie, won the first statuette, which was presented in 1985.