Johnny Osbourne is a Reggae Legend

About ten years ago I was completely hooked on skinhead reggae and roots reggae. I was under the impression that ragga and dancehall were not worth investigating further; I just dismissed it as noisy and annoying.

In May 2001 I visited Dread records in Stockholm. Magnus, the owner, had just got in Fally Lover by Johnny Osbourne on vinyl and suggested that I should take a listen right there in the store. I did, and was blown away. This album was not at all as I’d pictured it in my mind. I asked Magnus to keep it for a few days so that I could make a well balanced decision.

I already had Johnny Osbourne’s album Come Back Darling and knew that he was a great singer. But was dancehall really for me?

I went back after a few days and listened to it again. I still wasn’t sure, but Magnus – the great salesman as he was – persuaded me to buy it. So I did, and haven’t regretted it since. Fally Lover is one of my all-time favourite albums, a record that can’t be spun often enough.

Since that day, I’m hooked on dancehall, particularly the tough riddims provided by Roots Radics with Henry “Junjo” Lawes in the producer’s chair. I also went on and bought every dancehall album from Johnny Osbourne.

And now four of his great early 80’s albums are collected in a Greensleeves Reggae Legends box set. This set contains two Henry Lawes productions – Fally Lover (1980) and Never Stop Fighting (1982). But also Nightfall (1981), produced by Linval Thompson, and Water Pumping (1983), produced by Prince Jammy.

All of these albums have a rightful place in any record collection, especially the first three, which include wicked tunes such as Kiss Somebody, Man of Jahovia and Words of the Ghetto.

The only thing that this box set lacks is information. There are no sleeve notes at all, just the basic information on studio, producer and backing band. Greensleeves could have included the sleeve notes from the Johnny Osbourne Most Wanted set that hit the streets two years ago. That would have made this box set an even more essential purchase.

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