Johnny Osbourne

In Nah Disco Style

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After several years abroad, Johnny Osbourne returned to Jamaica and began making up for lost time. His first move was into Studio One, to cut 1979's Truths and Rights. Stints with Henry "Junjo" Lawes and Prince Jammy resulted in 1980's Fally Lover and Folly Ranking respectively. The following year the Winston Riley produced Warrior arrived, and before 1981 was out Osbourne was hard at work on his next release, the Linval Thompson produced In Nah Disco Style. Thompson's own star began rising in 1975, with a string of hits overseen by Bunny Lee, and it wasn't long before the singer moved into self-production. His initial efforts were a bit tentative, but intriguingly his biggest influence wasn't to be Lee, but Lawes. However, as the new decade dawned, Thompson's productions were becoming ever more distinctive. The changes are evident on Nah Disco. "Quashi" and Papa Tullo's DJ's take "Quashi Style" still trail in Lawes wake, but the rest of the set strikes off into very different waters. Lawes loved emptiness, Thompson preferred to drop more instrumentation into the mix, with "Nightfall" and its dub companion obvious examples, the latter continuously sliding guitar into the abyss. On "Love Comes and Goes" and "Girl of My Complexion" the emphasis is on the beats, but not the big, booming ones Lawes adored; instead Thompson hones in on the snapping snares and sharp percussion. Elsewhere, it's the incredible atmospheres that impress, with the producer and engineer Scientist sending disco spinning ever further from planet earth. "Kiss Somebody" and its dub are wonderfully abstract, almost disembodied in form. "Rude Boys" is surrounded by a haze of reverb, Osbourne's backing vocals floating like specters overhead, haunting the entire track. "Jah Jah Say So" (aka "Reach the Top") is even more extraordinary, the instruments swirling in a haze so thick it pushes towards psychedelia. Osbourne's performances are the equal to the production and fabulous backings, whether he's preaching unity, calming down the rudies, wooing his girl, or giving her the push. His lyrics are strong throughout, and his deliveries are awash in conviction and emotion. A stellar set from the singer, and one that announced the arrival of both the engineer and producer.

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