November 20, 2008

bobby-bobylon.jpg

If Sach O found a bag of weed on the floor, motherfucker. you know what the fuck he’d go and do: pick it up, pick it up.

So I’m at the local Caribbean spot, half blunted, picking up some roti for a lazy Thursday night when Freddie McGregor’s Bobby Bobylon starts blaring out the stereo. Now I’m not about to enter any sound clashes, but I’m no slouch on the reggae tip either: I can live without ever hearing Legend again, I’ve given obligatory props to the Congos, I know that busting out Night Nurse gets the panties off and can tell Augustus Clarke, Johnny Clarke and Augustus Pablo apart. I’d heard Freddie McGregor’s work beforehand but this was the shit. That bass heavy hard rock music mixed with the soulful sensitivity that makes dreads break down and cry into their Red Stripes. Suffice to say, this required some investigation.

Released for the mighty Studio 1 label, Bobby Bobylon was McGregor’s full length debut but he was no novice on the mic, beginning his career at the tender age of 7 and releasing a multitude of singles. Collecting some of this older material and adding newer tracks, the album is surprisingly cohesive with tough production that sounds far grittier than its 1980 release date would suggest. Which isn’t to say that the album’s nothing but fire n’ brimstone: the first half is mostly lover’s rock at its best. Tomorrow is like today is the immediate stand out with one of the most pained, soulful vocals ever committed to tape. A lament to loneliness, the song doesn’t break any ground but the incredible performance and superb horn charts lift the song into that rarefied space where the music grabs your emotions and doesn’t let go until it’s done. Plus I’ll put lines like it’s a sad sad feeling to be sitting all alone, with people walking past me…I might as well be stoned up against anything cooked up at Motown or Stax. On the harder tip, I’m a Revolutionist hits with enough righteous fury to satisfy even the snottiest college communist while the warm, glowing production wraps the vocals up like a blanket.

McGregor’s a true OG with a career spanning an amazing 5 decades, a career I’ll probably never be in a position to summarize. As one of Reggae’s few living legends though, he’s certainly one of people that’ll be benefiting from my (ever dwindling, recession addled) musical budget. That is, if I can get past Bobby Bobylon. The album’s that good.

Download:
MP3: Freddie McGregor-“Tomorrow is Like Today”
MP3: Freddie McGregor-“I’m a Revolutionist”

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