Johnny Osbourne / Roots Radics

Johnny Osbourne Meets Roots Radics

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The title of this roots fan's dream album is self-explanatory, with the set rounding up recordings Johnny Osbourne cut for producer Linval Thompson at Channel One at the dawn of the '80s, all backed by the Roots Radics. By that point, the singer was an unstoppable force in the sound systems. Having initially reactivated his career at Studio One after years abroad, Osbourne's dance card was soon full up. From Coxsone Dodd, the singer swung back into the studio with Winston Riley, hooked up briefly with Prince Jammy, then sashayed to and fro between Thompson and Henry "Junjo" Lawes. Both the latter producers recorded at Channel One, utilized the Radics bristling backings, and mixed their music down at King Tubby's studio. However, the two men's styles were distinctive, Lawes' heftier and more brittle, Thompson's airier and more abstract. That's evident across this "Vintage" set, which bundles up a clutch of Osbourne's singles and period recordings, with four of the numbers swelled by their dub versions. That includes the militant "Back Off Ringcraft," which seethed through the sound systems in 1981, and the spaced out "To Kiss Somebody," which took the scene by storm the previous year. "Reach the Top" reaches almost psychedelic space rock proportions, while even the sharper "Rude Boys" has an acid wash to the sound, thanks to Scientist's increasingly experimental mix-downs. "Night Fall" falls into deep roots, and its accompanying dub into the starlit twilight, while "Girl of My Complexion" is dappled by shadow and light. "Marijuana" hands an incompetent gardener his pink slip on sharp, swinging beats, while "Quashi" explores the life of the country bumpkin. Both numbers are prime slabs of Thompson's work from the period, while "Love Comes and Goes" bounces brightly towards the future, with a mix that sounds digitized, even though all the instruments are live. Osbourne's performances are splendid throughout, the Radics rule, Thompson's productions are superb, and Scientist, well it was with mixes like these that the young engineer began staking out his legendary reputation. A brilliant set that is still making waves today.

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