Johnny Osbourne

Never Stop Fighting

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The follow-up to Johnny Osbourne's 1980 Fally Lover album, and even though two years have passed, time seems to have stood still here, but that's not surprising considering this set was also overseen by Junjo Lawes and backed by the Roots Radics. Regardless, Never Stop Fighting has a brighter sound than its predecessor, especially on the first half of the disc. Across four love numbers the Radics offer up a series of breezy backings, or as breezy as the band can be when fired by Scott Style's militant beats and Errol "Flabba" Holt's thumping basslines. However, pianist Gladdy Gladstone and keyboardist Winston Wright keep the sound light and the melody flowing, reaching effervescent heights on the delightful "Sister Mister." Most of the album is themed around matters of the heart, and while numbers like the superb "Curly Locks Girl" are declarations of love, there's also the emotional confusion of "Over 31 Under 21" and the timeless romance of "Love Is Universal." In a totally different vein comes "Baccara" (aka "Backra"), a patois-heavy party piece with a carnival lilt. There's little for culture fans, but Osbourne makes up for quantity with quality, opening the set with the potent demand to end the violence of the title track, fueled by one of the Radics' most militant rhythms, and ending with the heartfelt sufferer's song "Words of the Ghetto." But the set's showcase is the extended "Give a Little Love," a soulful call to share the love, and boasting one of Scientist's most spectacularly militant mixes. The Radics are superb as always, Lawes' dubby production giving even the breeziest songs a deep roots feel, while Scientist gives every number the sharpest of edges. An excellent set.

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