With the rise of the DJs in the 1970s, Studio One found itself in the unenviable position of seeing its back catalog thoroughly plundered for rhythms. And while the label had dug into its archives on numerous occasions as well, the rise of a new generation of producers had seen its position in the market seriously slip. Clement "Coxsone" Dodd hit back first by remixing old cuts in a more contemporary style, and then took the next logical step of having artists write new lyrics to these reinvigorated classics. Sugar Minott led the way with his 1978 debut album, Live Loving; Johnny Osbourne's Truth and Rights followed hot on its heels the next year. Osbourne had launched his career a decade earlier, but his earlier success had been negated by his relocation to Canada, and thus Studio One announced his return with a handful of singles before unleashing this album. On an island awash in vocal talent, Osbourne's voice was not exceptional -- a strong, clear tenor; his delivery, however, was rich with nuanced emotions. But the same could be said of dozens of others; Osbourne's real strength lay in his lyrics. Much of Truth and Rights is culturally themed, but the singer also had a keen ear for the street, and a dancehall number like "Sing Jah Stylee," a huge hit, is a superb little vignette of life that unfolds right before one's eyes. Equally strong is "We Need Love," where he vividly conjures up the days of his youth before transforming the piece into a potent unity number. The title track relays his own powerful personal manifesto, one that is further expanded on "Children Are Crying," a militant call to consciousness. And whether the singer was declaring his devotion to a lady, as on the acerbic "Can't Buy Love," or the Lord, as on the smash "Jah Promise," Osbourne's convictions ring true. With his masterful pen and emotive delivery backed by adeptly updated island favorites, Truth and Rights reignited the singer's career. The album was extraordinary in its time and has since earned the deserved reputation of a masterpiece.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene