Photographer: Michael "Biggs" Burbridge.
On Di Captain's "Intro," Jamaican radio/television host Jenny Jenny gives a quick overview of singer Freddie McGregor's career, going back to his early-'60s rocksteady days and dropping a mention of "Big Ship," his pivotal hit. It was with that track that the rebel-saluting man who recorded "Bobby Bobylon" became a roots singer who also passionately delivered R&B, and later nailed lovers rock (1987's "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely" is a reggae standard) and bounced through the goofy ragga years like a pro (check 1994's "This Carry Go Bring Come" for sheer joy). It's why he's more than earned every genre swerve that this 2012 "comeback" album offers, and while this is an excellent way for material-starved fans to feast (it's his first full album in seven years, since he's been mentoring his way hip dancehall kids Stephen and Chino), it's a bit too stuffed and revue-minded to recommend to newcomers. McGregor regulars, on the other hand, get a wealth of grown folk's reggae, beginning with the warm and positive "Move Up Jamaica," an anthem for celebrating 50 years of independence. Later, there's a worthy redo of "Bobby Bobylon" dubbed "Standing Strong," with dancehall star Gappy Ranks supremely mashing it up, plus a slow, skanking take on "Rainbow Country" that's pure pleasure. "There You Go," "Let It Be Me," with the elegant Etana as guest, and a beautiful take on "A House Is Not a Home" give the album a winning trifecta of ballads, and with "Bag a Hype," McGregor offers the youths a poetic metaphor for the hollow life of a street hood. Even if it could have been sorted better, this has the warmth and wisdom McGregor fans adore with plenty of highlights to place on the legend's top shelf. ~ David Jeffries