Words by Jesse Serwer—
This year marks Freddie McGregor’s 50th in the music business, but don’t jump to any conclusions: he got his start at age seven, singing with vocal group The Clarendonians, back when he was known as “Little Freddie.”
At age 57, McGregor, patriarch of a family that also includes his wife, Judy Mowatt of the I-Threes, sons Stephen (superproducer “Di Genius”) and Chino and daughter, Shema, is arguably as important of a figure in reggae music as he was in his artistic heyday 30 years ago. The title of Freddie’s new LP Di Captain, out today on VP Records, references his status as the head of Big Ship, the family’s Kingston recording studio and record label.
The album, Freddie’s first in seven years, includes a mixture of originals (“Move Up Jamaica,” “Bag A Hype”) and covers (The Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me,” Bob Marley’s “Rainbow Country”) as well as a remake of McGregor’s 1980 hit “Bobby Bobylon” with Gappy Ranks, here called “Standing Strong.” Freddie’s old friend Leroy Sibbles of the Heptones also lends a hand on several tunes including an update of the Heptones’ 1968 tune “Equal Rights,” (which McGregor previously recorded with the Heptones and Jah Buzz for Studio One in the ’70s).
Other guests on the diverse effort, which spans reggae, dancehall, R&B and gospel (and even some vintage Clarendonians ska, sampled on the intro) include bass-and-drum duos Mafia & Fluxy and Steely & Clevie, singer Etana, saxophonist Dean Fraser and keyboardist Carlton “Bubblers” Ogilvie.
Stream Freddie McGregor’s Di Captain in full below, and purchase your copy here.