Jamaican singer Freddie McGregor started his career in his early teens in the 60s. He recorded for Studio One – first as part of The Clarendonians and later as a solo artist. And it was as a solo singer he recorded his best material for producers such as Niney and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd.
And it was to Coxone Dodd and Studio One Freddie McGregor returned for his masterpiece album Bobby Bobylon, released in circa 1979 and reissued a dozen or so times since then. The latest reissue came only a few months ago through the Studio One and Yep Roc collaboration.
This reissue is actually the same release as the Heartbeat version in 2006 and includes both the original ten track album as well as a whopping eight bonus cuts, including four lethal disco mixes with guest talents such as Lone Ranger and Jackie Mittoo.
Bobby Bobylon – with its anthemic title track – is essential to any record collection. It holds some of Freddie McGregor’s best material, such as album opener Bandulo, Gonna Take Over Now, a killer version of The Ethiopians classic, the mystical Rastaman Camp and the smoothly militant I Am a Revolutionist.
An amazing album from one of Jamaica’s most beloved vocalists.
Dennis Brown was on top of his game in the mid to late 70s and he put out more than a handful of excellent albums, including Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours, Words of Wisdom and Visions of Dennis Brown.
But this esteemed singer also dropped great material in the 80s and 90s, as shown on the brand new four disc box set Dennis Brown & Superstar Friends. It collects four original combination albums released between 1984 and 1993 – Judge Not and No Contest with Gregory Isaacs, Legit with Freddie McGregor and Cocoa Tea and Hotter Flames with Frankie Paul.
Augustus “Gussie” Clarke was responsible for production on Judge Not, No Contest and Legit. These collect solo and duo tracks as well as several discomixes, discomixes that showcase the crisp and sharp hi-tech riddims that became Gussie Clarke’s trademark.
Hotter Flames – produced by Patrick Roberts and Andre Tyrell aka Shocking Vibes – is rawer and more rugged compared to Gussie Clarke’s slick, yet with an edge, style.
Included is no less than 38 tracks, and highlights include the massive Gregory Isaacs combination Let off the Supm, To the Foundation, No Camouflage, Big All Around, Bone Lies and a nice take of Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic.
This set is a proper showdown where the Crown Prince of Reggae teams up with four of his superstar friends to make music for your ears and listening pleasure.
Three of Jamaican singer Freddie McGregor’s albums are for me all-time classics – Mr. McGregor, Bobby Babylon and Big Ship. All recorded and released in the late 70’s and early 80’s, prior to him switching to a poppier and more lovers-oriented direction focused on the crossover market.
I haven’t paid much attention to his output since the massive Big Ship album for Linval Thompson, even though he has put out lots of successful albums and singles, particularly the Jamaican Classic series in the 90’s.
Freddie McGregor’s latest album is his first in seven years – during this time he has mentored his acknowledged sons Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor and Chino – and continues in the maritime vein.
On Di Captain this smooth and soulful singer has set sail on a warm, elegant and polished musical journey accompanied by producers C & R McLeod, Dalton Browne, Steelie & Clevie and Stephen McGregor along with a number of acclaimed Jamaican and British musicians, including Leroy Sibbles from The Heptones on bass.
This 16-track collection has taken four years to complete and includes fresh originals, the festive and celebratory Move Up Jamaica, cover versions, a gentle take on The Heptones’ Equal Rights, romantic ballads, the heartfelt Love I Believe In, and strong cultural messages, as in the redo of his smash hit Bobby Babylon, here titled Standing Strong with Gappy Ranks’ sharing microphone duties.
Freddie McGregor’s voice has aged with dignity showcased on this easy-going set, even though I would have appreciated a little more nerve and adventurousness.
Di Captain is now available on CD and on digital platforms.
When browsing the track list of the new Studio One compilation Studio One Ironsides on SoulJazz Records the title might be confusing for serious collectors, since it’s not entirely based on the output from legendary producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s imprint Ironside. A number of the cuts are taken from that particular label, but the bulk of the songs come from other imprints, such as Bongo Man, Money Disc, London and Coxsone.
Clement Dodd had a big number of labels and according to the excellent liner notes written by reggae historian Noel Hawks this might have been a way to trick radio DJ’s into playing his records, since radio DJ’s usually aren’t keen on playing too much music from the same source.
As with the previous Studio One compilation – the excellent Studio One Sound – SoulJazz have dug deep into the mighty archives of Studio One and the Ironsides album collects an incredible line-up of performers ranging from well-known singers and deejays such as Freddie McGregor, Alton Ellis and Lone Ranger to the obscure vocal groups The Stingers and The Soul Sisters.
The 18 tracks on this eclectic compilation are sheer and warm brilliance and, as the liner notes states, shows the breadth and depth of one of the most important labels in the history of reggae.
Studio One Ironsides hits the streets on January 21 in CD- jewel case with 24-page booklet with card slipcase as well as a heavyweight double-vinyl edition in deluxe strong gatefold sleeve (with full sleeve notes) and also as a digital download.