by: Freddie McGregor

This lush set is the kind of album that provides months and years of pleasure, rich and satisfying, and at 15 strong songs, one that listeners will return to again and again over time. Filled with luxurious numbers and shimmering moods and atmospheres, Signature is a stellar record, one of Freddie McGregor's best. It holds together spectacularly as a set, quite a trick considering the myriad production teams and multitude of backing musicians involved. Glorious romantic numbers rub shoulders with heartfelt devotional numbers and thoughtful cultural songs, with the musical accompaniment as varied as the themes: lush R&B to sweet rocksteady, deeper roots to tough dancehall. Virtually every song cries out for attention, but the centerpiece is a quartet in the album's center, kicking off with the upbeat "So Who," a superb Dean Fraser production that brings early R&B to the dancehalls, along with Fraser's own smoky sax, of course, counterpointing McGregor's own heartaching performance. The singer's self-produced "I Don't Want to Lose You" is even more soulful, a romantic number that's so romantic that the plastic warms under its grooves. The devotional "Jah Jah Give We Love" is just as seductive, filled with McGregor's warm, inspiring performance and sweet, incandescent backing vocals. A version of Jacob Miller's "The World of Suzy Wong," this is another shimmering Fraser production. "Hand in a de Fire" is a dancehall scorcher, a Stingray special whose heavy dread mood is so evocative that it takes hours to shake off. Elsewhere, Levy successfully resurrects "Take Good Care of You," a number he originally cut for Studio One, the label which also gave listeners the Cables' ever-popular "What Kind of World." Fraser versioned that rhythm for Morgan Heritage's smash "Down by the River," and now hands it over to McGregor for the stellar "I See It in You." "Key to the City" comes via a much more obscure Studio One cut, with the Stingray team creating a gentle backing that enhances this praise-filled number that was one of McGregor's biggest hits of the year. In truth, virtually everything here is just as strong; pick your own favorites or just relish the whole for the masterpiece it is. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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