Sings Jamaican Classics

Freddie McGregor

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Sings Jamaican Classics Review

by Steve Leggett

Originally released in the early 1990s as three separate volumes, Freddie McGregor Sings Jamaican Classics is an expanded edition that brings all three of those volumes together in a single package. The original sets were recorded between 1990 and 1994 and featured McGregor's effortlessly elegant and relaxed vocals over backing tracks built from synthesizer riffs and drum loops as he revisits several roots rock classics from the '60s and '70s in a light dancehall style. By all rights, the end result should have been bland and relatively disposable, but that isn't the case, as McGregor's vocals are very much alive and nuanced, the arrangements are lovingly respectful and the rhythms support and enlarge these songs rather than overwhelm them. There is so much to like here, including a wonderful remake of the Clarendonians' "Breaking Up" (McGregor was a member of the group when the original version was recorded), Junior Byles' "Beat Down Babylon," Bob Marley's "Nice Time," and the Ethiopians' "Everything Crash," among others, and in each case McGregor sings from the heart, giving these remakes a nicely balanced feel between what made the originals such classics and what might actually still go over in the increasingly digital-driven dancehall market. That McGregor pulls it off is nothing short of amazing, and it's a rare thing when remakes of classics seem like classics themselves.

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