True To My Roots
Freddie McGregor
Big Ship Music Inc.
CD / Digital Release
July 1, 2016

Track list
  1. True To My Roots
  2. Your Love's Got A Hold On Me
  3. Calling
  4. As The World Keeps Turning (I'm A Soldier)
  5. Master Design
  6. Sen' Come Call Me
  7. Song In My Head
  8. One Of These Days
  9. I'm Falling In Love With You
  10. Rasta Ha'Fi Party feat. Chino & Stephen 'Di Genius' McGregor
  11. What You Gonna Do
  12. I'll Be Back
  13. I Pledge My Love
  14. Indigenous People
  15. Do You Understand?
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Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
As the story goes, internationally acclaimed Freddie McGregor, one of reggae's most durable and soulful singers, began his career on an orange crate as he was too short to reach the mic when at the precocious age of seven he added his extraordinary talent to the backing vocals of the ska duo The Clarendonians in 1963. It was the start of an unbroken career, which spanned nearly every stylistic shift in Jamaican music, from ska and rocksteady to Rastafarian roots reggae to lovers rock (his particular specialty) to dabblings in dancehall, ragga, and dub. He wasn't just a singer as he also wrote some of his own material, and grew into an accomplished producer as well. Mr. McGregor, whose heyday was the early 1980s, released albums to the max and had a trailer-load of hits including "Push Come To Shove", "Africa Here I Come", "Just Don't Want To Be Lonely", "That Girl", "I Was Born A Winner", "Carry Go Bring Come", "Lock Dem Down" and, of course, his signature tune "Big Ship".

Now, in the year of his 60th birthday (June 27), he comes up with a brand spanking new album on his own Big Ship imprint entitled "True To My Roots". And that's exactly what he expresses with the 16 tracks featured on this album, which has that typical balance of roots reggae and lovers rock with touches of dancehall we know from his previous album releases. Notable producers Dalton Browne, Cleveland Browne (of the legendary reggae production duo, Steely & Clevie) and Lloyd Campbell together with Freddie McGregor himself succeeded in creating a grand album. And it helps that the old skool singer that Freddie McGregor is, can make even a weak song sound good, which certainly doesn't imply that this set has a few weaknesses.

Things get started in an exciting way with the previously released second single of the album and title track, the massive "True To My Roots" and Freddie's worthy interpretation of Dennis Brown's "Love's Got A Hold On Me", both coming across an awesome relick of Don Drummond's much versioned "Heavenless" riddim. These two stand out tunes have that authentic sweet rootsy sound the legendary Jamaican singer is known and loved for. Besides the "Heavenless" riddim, this album has more tasteful remakes of classic riddims such as U Brown's "Weather Balloon" that underpins "Calling" and Doreen Schaffer's "Try A Little Smile", a Studio One gem from 1977. The latter is revitalized for the Lloyd Campbell produced "What You Gonna Do", actually a do-over of a song Freddie McGregor originally did for his 2000 album, "Signature", and rightfully featured on VP Records' "Strictly The Best Vol. 52" due to the fact that it topped the New York and South Florida Billboard charts in 2015.

And then, as usual, you'll also find a few cover versions here, which besides the aforementioned "Love's Got A Hold On Me" include Little Anthony & The Imperials' "I'm Falling In Love With You" from 1973 and a great re-working of The Beatles song "I'll Be Back" from 1964, in 1972 already expertly done by Errol Dunkley who called his version "You Never Know". When it comes to new originals this set contains quite a few songs that simply need to be heard as their fine arrangements and rich harmonies permit Freddie McGregor's clear voice to shine in all its beauty. First of all there are songs full of consciousness like the gorgeous "Calling" (on Jah soldiers, get ready for the battle), the beautiful "As The World Keeps Turning (I'm A Soldier)", the solid "Sen' Come Call Me", the brilliant "Indigenous People" and the anti-violence tune "Do You Understand?". And then there are the songs that deal with love, a theme that is always present on albums of the reputedly romantic veteran singer. The delightful lovers piece "Master Design" caresses the eardrums to the max, while also "I Pledge My Love" is truly worth hearing when you and your lover are in a romantic mood. Last but not least we urge you to listen to "Song In My Head" as this tune is massive!

After more than 50 years in music business, the legendary Captain of the Big Ship shows that he's still able to deliver a very good collection of tunes!