Sunday, 29 May 2016
Oliver: Tiger & Freddie McGregor - One Room Shack (2 February 1992)
"To be poor is a crime" sings Freddie McGregor at the start of this collaboration with Norman Washington Jackson AKA Tiger, and he's absolutely correct but isn't it amazing how many of us are repeat offenders.
After love, sex, dancing, and getting high, poverty ranks very high in the themes for tracks across the history of music. Nowhere more so than in reggae music where calling out the injustices that pass for everyday living in the Carribean have been a staple since the genre's earliest releases. Jackson who provided the singjay updates to Still Cool's original may have been influenced by Al Campbell's track of the same name from 1983. But whereas Campbell's song despaired over the state of those crammed into one room and looked to Jah for help, the Tiger/McGregor duet is far more get-up and go, albeit aware that outside of music, there are other ways out of poverty which must be resisted. That poverty can be a generational problem is also acknowledged as McGregor sings about how he saw it affect his mother, father, brother and sister. But it puts the emphasis on the individual to sort themselves out, providing they are aware that the system will probably do more to hinder than support them.
This is a thoughtful and engaged piece of social commentary, but it is in danger of being derailed from its narrative by the foolish "quack quack" refrains which almost turn it into a party record.
Videos courtesy of Exe-Soundz Dubs