Big Ship

by: Freddie McGregor

R&B has long been a major influence on reggae (just as it influenced ska and, before that, mento). In the early 1980s, different reggae artists were being influenced by different types of R&B -- some were getting into slick, keyboard-driven urban contemporary sounds, while others maintained their devotion to 1960s and 1970s soul. On 1982's Big Ship, Freddie McGregor's love of African-American soul music comes through loud and clear -- even though many of the more Rastafarian-oriented lyrics are very much a product of the Jamaican experience. True to form, the singer provides a variety of political and apolitical songs. While gems like "Holy Mount Zion" and "Get United" underscore his political/spiritual beliefs as a Rastafarian, McGregor favors more of a lovers rock approach on "Let Me Be the One," "Stop Loving You," and "Sweet Lady." In reggae circles, the term lovers rock refers to reggae that chooses romantic themes over social or political topics -- essentially, it is the reggae equivalent of romantic R&B. And any soul lover who has spent a lot of time savoring the romantic sweet soul of the Delfonics or Brenton Wood should have no problem getting into the lovers rock on this album. For that matter, McGregor's more sociopolitical songs have just as much classic soul appeal. Reissued on CD in 2001, Big Ship is among the best and most consistent albums that McGregor provided in the 1980s. ~ Alex Henderson

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