Johnny Osbourne

Fally Lover

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Truth and Rights is rightfully considered Johnny Osbourne's masterpiece, a stellar album of resurrected Studio One rhythms wed to the singer's heartfelt new cultural lyrics. The album was a hit, but Osbourne was already off to work with other producers, starting with the up-and-coming Henry "Junjo" Lawes. Lawes, the master of dread dancehall, launched Barrington Levy to fame, then introduced the world to Eek-A-Mouse, before giving everyone "Diseases" via the Michigan & Smiley smash. If his deeply dubby productions fired the dancehalls, the Roots Radics fueled Lawes' sound with their militant, deep roots backings. Perhaps after the bouncy Studio One backings, the singer was overwhelmed by the Radics' stark arrangements, which Lawes and mixer Barnabus would often strip back to Style Scott's crashing beats and Flabba Holt's stealthy bass riff. Only snippets of melody remained, and with vast open vistas to fill, Osbourne choked. Most of Fally Lover's songs feature reiterated lyrics, simplistic choruses, and sophomoric sentiments, which reach nadirs on "Ice Cream Love" and "No Lollypop No Sweet So." But that's almost a moot point, for it's not what he's saying, it's how he's saying it that actually matters. And playing off the dense atmospheres the Radics are conjuring up, Osbourne reaches new heights of soulfulness. The lovelorn title track is superb, "You're Too Sexy" is just silly, but Osbourne delivers it with perfect aplomb, while "Ice Cream Love" is even more ludicrous, but the singer offers it up with panache, which means that a true romantic number like "Love So Strong" and a cultural cut like "Man of Jehoviah," ring with fervid emotional depths. Can a stellar album still sport substandard lyrics? In this case, yes: without a doubt.

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