Tag Archives: Johnny Osbourne

Powerful contemporary rub-a-dub from Mungo’s Hi Fi and YT

mungoshifi_yt-nowatadowntingTough UK chanter YT is a regular among Mungo’s Hi Fi’s many collaborators. And now they have a new album together, a set that is less experimental compared to several other releases from this Scottish outfit.

No Wata Down Ting lives up to its frank title. YT rides eleven rough riddims powered by live instrumentation supplemented by Prince Fatty’s studio band. The have laid down a number of devastating riddims, including the title track, which is a version of Johnny Osbourne’s wicked Ice Cream Love, originally produced by Henry “Junjo” Lawes. Johnny Osbourne himself joins YT on the microphone and Mungo’s Hi Fi has wobbled the bass line to mash up sound system dances worldwide.

But Ice Cream Love is not the only trace of Henry Lawes on this great set. Album opener – the motivational God Bless Pickney – is a version of Toyan’s excellent Afrikan Ting and Hugh Mundell’s Jaqueline, dubbed by Scientist with great effect as Blood On His Lips.

Another dancehall luminaire also contributes. Little John adds verses to the pulsating Work to Do, which might be this album’s strongest track.

No Wata Down Ting begins its musical journey with Henry Lawes and ends at another end of the dancehall sonic landscape – jump-up digital as made world-known by producers like Steely & Clevie in the late 80s.

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The Banyans return with another solid roots reggae set

The-Banyans---For-better-days-0038French reggae band The Banyans started in 2010 and dropped their strong debut album Steppin’ Forward in 2013. Now they return with another solid roots effort, and this one is even better than its predecessor. It might have to do with their intense touring schedule – more than 400 shows under their belt – or maybe the new members have improved songwriting and harmonies.

For Better Days… collects 13 tracks and includes collaborations with reggae luminaries Johnny Osbourne and Big Youth along with rising star Maranto. The set carries the spirit of vintage Jamaican roots reggae from the mid-70s with bright horns and a few dubby effects. The bass and the drums are tight. The sound is militant, yet harmonious, and the lyrics are positive with a conscious approach.

It’s easy to get caught in the beat and the infectious melodies stick like glue, and this make The Banyans one of the best European roots reggae bands of today.

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Vibrating roots from King Jammy’s camp

Rootsman Vibrations At King Jammys - ArtworkA recent box set from VP Records collects four rare and in-demand roots albums produced by Prince Jammy, since the mid 80s known as King Jammy.

The box set is very tasty since it features four stellar albums – Johnny Osbourne’s Folly Ranking (not to be confused with the Henry “Junjo” Lawes produced set Fally Lover), Barry Brown’s Showcase, Hugh Mundell & Lacksley Castell’s Jah Fire and Noel Phillips’, aka Echo Minott, Youth Man Vibrations. The latter set was actually recently reissued on vinyl. A timely and odd coincidence since it has been unavailable since it was originally issued in 1980.

All four albums were actually released in 1980. At the time Johnny Osbourne was at the height of his powers, while the other artists were more up and coming. Well maybe not Hugh Mundell. Even though still in his late teens he had already dropped the majestic Africa Must be Free by 1983.

All four albums are hard, relentless and tough roots reggae with driving bass lines and pounding drums. Johnny Osbourne’s singing is as warm and pleasant as always. The other four singers have an energetic and youthful approach, sometimes reminiscent of a young Barrington Levy.

Rootsman Vibrations at King Jammys comes with a sizzling 33 tracks, of which five are in a showcase style with dub versions that could tear down the walls of Fort Knox. An excellent box set to say the least.

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Josey Wales is awarded Reggae Legend

Josey Wales – the main rival to Yellowman in the early 80’s – has been awarded a Reggae Legends box set, courtesy of Greensleeves records. This includes four albums – The Outlaw Josey Wales (1983), No Way Better Than Yard (1983), Two Giants Clash (1984) and Undercover Lover (1985).

All albums are nice efforts, but my particular favourites are No Way Better Than Yard, produced by Michael “Pep” Chin, and Undercover Lover, produced by George Phang. These two sets differ a lot from each other though. The first has a more roots oriented vibe, while the latter has pulsating, early digital riddims courtesy of the Taxi Gang.

Two Giants Clash is famous for its great art work by Tony McDermott and because it was a clash between the most acclaimed deejays in the early 80’s. The production is credited to Henry “Junjo” Lawes and is backed by tough riddims from his usual suspects – Roots Radics.

In my opinion, Yellowman won the clash, but Josey Wales proved to be the more consistent of the two and remained popular throughout the 80’s, partly due to his work with King Jammy.

This box set is sold a at bargain price and is easily worth the money. But, as with the Johnny Osbourne box set, it lacks information. No sleeve notes, just credits. It’s a pity for all of us that really thirst for information.

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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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