Thursday, 17 January 2013

FREDDIE McGREGOR: The reggae icon on his new album, Bob Marley, and blending original tunes with classic covers

SAIL AWAY: New album offers soothing sounds from the Big Ship boss. 

“These songs were very specially chosen,” explains Freddie McGregor, referring to the collection of 16 tracks that make up his latest studio album, Di Captain, due out on Jan. 29 via VP Records/Big Ship. “We took the greatest pains in making sure these would be classic songs that will last for a long time. I chose songs like “Equal Rights” because I love the message and because the youth need to hear it. We made a special effort to keep it as grass-roots as we can.” 

With a vast repertoire that spans some five decades, McGregor remains one of Jamaica’s few first-generation reggae icons who have blazed a path through the genres, from ska and rocksteady to early roots and modern-day reggae. Di Captain, his brand new effort after four years in the making (whose title refers slyly to his continued status as head of the Big Ship production complex) promises to reward listeners with another stellar sample of the journey he’s making. 

According to his record label, the album not only demonstrates Freddie’s magnificent talents as a songwriter and his taste for cover versions but also his penchant for delivering strong culture-based messages. Original songs include the heartfelt tribute to his island “Move up Jamaica,” the powerfully pleading “More Love in the Ghetto” and the earnestly romantic and gospel-flavoured “Love I Believe In.” 

As for cover versions, Freddie draws from a wide array of great pop anthems like Luther Vandross’ “A House Is Not a Home” and reggae classics such as “Bob Marley’s “Rainbow Country” – infusing each rendition with his own unmistakable vibe and rich, soulful vocals, with the assistance of producers like Dean Fraser, Steely & Clevie, and Mafia & Fluxy. 

Ever looking ahead, McGregor says he is dedicated to moving reggae into the future with hope and positivity. “Bob Marley took this music to a real high level,” he observes, “and we should all try to keep it there.”

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