Come on Over

by: Freddie McGregor

Freddie McGregor officially introduced himself to American reggae fans with this 1983 album, the start of a fruitful relationship with the RAS label. It's a charming set, and while not quite up to the standard of masterpiece Big Ship, which arrived the previous year, it was certainly enjoyable. Ship was captained by Linval Thompson while Come On Over is self-produced, but McGregor had obviously been paying attention and had the assistance of some of Jamaica's top engineers to boot, including Scientist and Sylvan Morris. In fact, the two albums have a very similar sound, not surprising considering both sets were backed by the Roots Radics, but with the addition of brass, the arrangements here are even richer. The album contains a heady mix of moods and themes, with tributes to the dance particularly well represented. McGregor requests "Shirley Come On Over" so she can dance with him all night long to the simmering roots rub-a-dub the Radics are spinning out. "Rhythm So Nice" is another rub-a-dub, and indeed the rhythm's big swinging beats and sparkling keyboards are so nice you've got to play it twice. "Reggae Feeling" celebrates the style and its island home, with Dean Fraser's smoky sax solos and choppy riffs bringing the heyday of early reggae instantly to mind. The personal numbers are just as sublime, with "Go Away Pretty Woman" (a recut of McGregor's '60s Studio One hit) luxuriating in the jazzy brass before the singer sends her packing. "Are You Crazy" also boasts superb brass, the bright and breezy backing disarming the feminists, who'll bay for the singer's blood for his audacious reaction to his woman stepping out for the evening. "Stand Up and Fight" is just as upbeat and twinned with an optimistic religious message, while the unity-themed "Brotherman" is backed by a tougher sound. But it's "Shortman" that is the most ferocious number on the set, militant roots sent storming into the dancehalls on great waves of reverb. McGregor attempts to drag "Natty Dread" out of the same era, but is "Natty" ready for the contemporary dancehalls? Apparently so. It doesn't quite equal Bob Marley's original, but the Radics and the singer do the late Wailer proud. An album that easily crossed the growing chasm between younger dancehall fans and older roots aficionados, Come On Over was a stellar way to meet and greet this veteran singer. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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