Johnny Osbourne


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Grabbing up a clutch of recent singles and tossing in some new numbers, Groovin' finds Johnny Osbourne doing precisely that -- grooving with the masses in the dancehalls. As this album dates from the mid-'80s, the groove itself is overwhelmingly ragga-fied, and laid down by some of the island's digital greats, including Steely & Clevie, Sly Dunbar, Danny Browne, and Robbie Lyn.

The rhythms are sharp, updating a clutch of old classics, and in a number of cases, virtual covers or medleys. The title track, for instance, blends the Young Rascals' hit with an even older chestnut, "Portrait of My Love," all set to a vivacious, digitized rhythm. "People Get Ready" melds the Impressions' masterpiece with the Wailers' "One Love" into a superb gospel number, the set's only cultural piece. Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" sails straight into the dancehalls and parties the night away. "Tra La La La" celebrates the young girls found there, although "Yo Yo" suggests that Osbourne may like looking, but isn't happy with some of their more rambunctious behavior. Both numbers boast incredibly infectious backings, the former particularly jubilant, the latter equally emphatic.

And although Osbourne claims on "Tra La" that "the young girls run thing now," he puts paid to that idea with a clutch of songs that make clear who really runs the dancehall -- himself, of course. The competition is advised to "Back Out" of his territory, because the singer is going to "Kill a Sound Tonight," for Osbourne will brook no disrespect. And by now he's earned it, as "Gimme de Ting" potently reminds listeners, set as it is to a vivacious new version of Hopeton Lewis' "Take It Easy," which of course, Osbourne had previously versioned for his break-out 1983 hit "Water Pumping." At this point, whatever little thing he wants, best to give it to him.

Culture fans will be disappointed, but in the dancehalls, Osbourne was thrilling everyone with these numbers.

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