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Musician Dean Fraser Hails Late Singer Bob Andy, Says Tribute Album Was Deserving

“He was not just a normal, ordinary guy who wrote a couple rhymes,” saxophonist Dean Fraser said about late singer-songwriter Bob Andy. “He was really prolific; him a di best thing.”

His sentiments manifest on We Remember Bob Andy, a tribute album featuring 15 artists covering Andy’s catalog which he curated and produced for VP Records. He envisioned the project following the singer’s passing in March 2020 and galvanized a cross-generation of vocalists and musicians for the set, which debuted on February 10.

“Bob Andy is one of the best singer-songwriters to ever emerge from Jamaica, and he was a great entertainer also,” Fraser said. “For the times that I have worked with him, I’ve always been impressed. The first time I went to the UK and did a concert with him (1984), I was super impressed at that time because the songs that were big in England, I never knew them, so, here was a guy who was making sure that I had to go do my homework. He was really the boss and I think it was worthy to make a tribute album to him.”

With a nonpareil repertoire that has provided the foundation for some of reggae’s finest rhythms and samples (cue Andy’s ‘Too Experienced’ covered by Barrington Levy and the rhythmic framework of ‘Feeling Soul’ paving the way for Buju Banton’s ‘Love Mi Browning’), one could imagine the task of selecting songs for this project. Yet, Fraser wasn’t daunted by the challenge made easy by Andy’s celebrated 1972 Songbook album, nine songs from which are reimagined on We Remember Bob Andy.

“When I got to England and heard songs like Life’, ‘Life Could Be a Symphony’ and You Don’t Know’, these are songs that I don’t think nobody in Jamaica knows, but these are huge songs and we’re not talking about Young, Gifted and Black’ (with Marcia Griffiths) that was a super duper hit or Check It Out– we didn’t have space for them. I just placed a nice package of what I thought were his greatest accomplishments musically and put that together.”

The creative process grew technical when it came to choosing the artists, which Fraser executed based on voices that complement Andy’s, but most important, artists he felt could bring a certain kind of magic to the songs.

This is delineated, for instance, on Andy’s delightful Sun Shines for Me’, which couldn’t be more of a perfect fit for Richie Spice’s melodious tonalities and groovy insertions, or Sherieta’s cloud-perched falsettos and playful jazz vocals on Honey. It continues with Olaf Blackwood’s haunting yet empathetic tremolos on You Don’t Know’, a journal entry of the ecstatic highs and debilitating lows in a dark period of Andy’s life. Singers Alaine and Lukie D capture the nostalgia and chemistry of the iconic Bob and Marcia duo in Really Together’, and Quor’s crisp and velvety vocals paired with the ethereal and orchestral feels of Life’ must have Andy smiling somewhere.

Also contributing to this voyage through Andy’s musical masterpieces were Tarrus Riley, Duane Stephenson, Luciano, Beres Hammond, Kumar, Bitty McLean, Romain Virgo, Nadine Sutherland, and Sanchez.

“You know when you’re doing an album, especially a compilation, and people want to sing dem favourite song?” Fraser asked. “The artists just worked with me, and they made the thing so much different. It was so much easier, and I really appreciated that. This was really a fun gig, so, we just want to big up these artists.”

He further commended the musicians involved, adding, “The man dem just come and mek we music easy. They were impeccable.” So much so that the album accompanies ten instrumental versions including trumpeting prodigy Okiel Mcintyre on Let Them Say’, Robbie Lyn’s soul-stirring keys on Unchained’, Jon Williams’ classical and jazz composition on Honey’ and Fraser’s groovy sax on Fire Burning’.

Not motivated to create for industry accolades like a Grammy award, Fraser’s hope for the album is that it makes more people aware of the brilliance, expansiveness, and influence of Andy’s catalogue.

“One of things that we did for this music is to forward it to another three generations because its our responsibility. When you play certain tunes and I can say, ‘yeah man, that was originally done by so and so’, that is what we want this to do to Bob Andy and the Jamaican people and the Jamaican music. We proud fi know seh we pass on Bob Andy’s music to good hands, and it will continue forever.”

Andy, whose given name was Keith Anderson, is being honoured in a reggae month special on TVJ tomorrow, February 26, at 9 p.m. Artists from the album are slated to perform his songs which viewers can experience on VP Records’ YouTube channel.

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