Freddie McGregor joins UB40 on tour; new album ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ ready
A new album from Fredddie McGregor is like a breath of fresh air, and it is no coincidence that that is the title of the 13-track project which is set to be released early next year. And, leading up to the release, McGregor will be on a progressive high. The esteemed Captain of the Big Ship — as his record label is named — will close out the year 2022 on tour with UB40.
The I’m Longing to See You singer and the British reggae band “go a long way” as far back as 1986 when McGregor was signed to Polydor Records, and UB40’s video crew did the music videos for So I’ll Wait For You, That Girl/Groovy Situation and Come to Me. And, as if to commemorate that journey, they will be presenting fans with a December to remember. McGregor is one of two special guests on UB40’s United Kingdom and Northern Ireland tour, and the band is shouting their excitement on social media.
“We are very excited to have the Captain, Freddie McGregor, joining us on our arena tour dates this December! Tickets are running low for all shows, so grab yours while you can!” UB40 posted a few days ago.
The band, which formed in 1978, is officially kicking off its 45th anniversary with the December dates, which will see them, along with McGregor and the other special guest, Don Letts, performing in places such as Nottingham, Norwich, Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool, Belfast, Castlebar, Birmingham, Leeds and London. The final concert is scheduled for December 21 at Ovo Arena in Wembley.
For McGregor, “everything is happening at the right time”, and he reflected on times spent with the band. He shared that, 11 years ago, UB40 flew him to Birmingham for a studio session, and they have been connecting ever since. “As I can remember, it was on September 11 ... that was the day that I arrived in Birmingham. Then, just before corona, we did a huge concert in California, and last year we did a great interview on their YouTube channel,” McGregor told The Sunday Gleaner.
He added, “I am really grateful to be going out with UB40 ... my group and I are really excited, these are great arena dates, and we are looking forward to doing them. The first show is on December 2 in Nottingham, Rock City, which is a flagship venue in the UK for excellent live music.”
McGregor, a child star whose career started when he was only seven years old, is a pioneer in ska, rock steady and reggae and a stalwart within the music industry. The elder statesman has released more than 40 albums during his stellar career and has received numerous accolades, including the Best Reggae Album nomination at the 45th Grammy Awards for Anything For You; the Institute of Caribbean Studies 2013 Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award; the prestigious Silver Musgrave Award from the Institute of Jamaica; and the 2020 Black History Month meets Reggae Icon Award.
Exploring themes of unity, peace, love, survival, and perseverance on the soon-to-be-released A Breath of Fresh Air album, produced by the UK-based Sting Ray Records, “The album is ready,” an elated McGregor said of the project which has been two years in the making. Of the title, he said that while listening to the tracks, he suggested that it “sounded like a breath of fresh air”, and everyone agreed. Moving forward, that became the working title of the album, which follows his 2017 offering More Love in the Ghetto.
The singer, songwriter and producer also shared a snippet of other projects in the works.
“We have a new Afrobeats single coming with me and a sista from Gambia and an artiste from Ghana. It is a beautiful collab called Walla Walla Weng. The video is being worked on as we speak, and plans are in place to tour Ghana, Gambia, and Kenya in March, and Europe and the UK for most of the next summer. Things are looking up,” he said.
Last December, it was announced that McGregor had signed a worldwide publishing deal with the American company Warner Chappell Music. The deal covers the full catalogue of his close to six-decade career.
Guy Moot, co-chair and CEO of Warner Chappell Music, said at the time, “Freddie is known as the Captain of the Big Ship and with good reason. He’s been a pioneer in reggae for decades, writing songs that have moved fans around the world, and is well known for being generous with his time and efforts for younger up-and-coming artistes. We’re delighted that he’s signed with us and can’t wait to get to work on his incredible catalogue and new music.”
McGregor, whose son Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor is also signed to Warner Chappell Music, said, “with a new album in the works and the live scene coming out of hibernation, it seems like the right time to start writing a new chapter in my career. I want to connect with other writers and producers from around the world to keep inspiring me to make music that moves people”.