Freddie McGregor ‘Di Captain’ (VP) 4/5

Freddie McGregor returns with one of his strongest new releases in years and he has found just the right balance between interpreting classic songs, several of which reside outside the reggae tradition, and some excellent renditions of his own compositions both old and new. Early reggae flavours predominate on the uplifting call to action on ‘Move up Jamaica’ while a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s ‘You won’t see me’ has all the feel and sound of an early 1970s recording complete with vocal harmonies. Social concerns have never been far from McGregor’s work and his own anthem ‘More love in the ghetto’ has never been more relevant and is a heartfelt plea for greater social harmony. The horn-led Leroy Sibbles tune ‘Equal rights’ logically follows on in the same vein and is a strong interpretation throughout. Freddie’s love of American soul music is all too evident in his career and here he reworks the Dionne Warwick Bacharach and David penned classic ‘A house is not a home’ as an uptempo rockers with production duties by Stevie and Cleevie. More surprising is the decision to cover the Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller written ‘Rainbow country’ and the lovely echo on McGregor’s voice makes one think of a classic Wackie’s production when in fact it is by the McLeod brothers who impress elsewhere on this album. Mid-tempo lyrical sounds emanate from the take on the Mighty Diamonds roots song ‘Africa’ while a McGregor original ‘Love I believe in’ is an incredibly catchy and soulful tune. Gappy Ranks guests on ‘Standing Strong’ with Etana featuring on vocals on what was originally a French chanson song, ‘Let it be me’. With shared production duties including the aforementioned plus Freddie’s son Stephen, this a varied album and one that provides evidence, if ever any were truly needed, that Freddie McGregor is still one of the premier singers of Jamaican music any period included.

Tim Stenhouse