|1. Safe From Harm|
|2. One Love|
|3. Blue Lines|
|4. Be Thankful For What You've Got|
|5. Five Man Army|
|6. Unfinished Sympathy|
|9. Hymn Of The Big Wheel|
Blue Lines wasn’t produced without persuasion, though, and while it might shuffle to a remarkably assured beat, the then-trio of 3D, Daddy G and Mushroom needed a little coercion to get the puzzle pieces in their right places. The celebrated guilty party: one Neneh Cherry, a star on the back of 1989’s Raw Like Sushi LP, whose championing of this group of Wild Bunch sound system sorts helped seal a record deal. And once Blue Lines was delivered, Virgin set about exploiting its singular content. Hip hop unlike its stateside purveyors, soul without bedroom intent: this wasn’t quite like anything else out there. And the breakthrough would be, while hardly instant, dramatic enough to still be felt to this day.
Unfinished Sympathy alone didn’t make Blue Lines the classic its standing in so many best-albums-ever charts confirms, but it ensured that the public en masse would give Massive Attack the chance to impress with their myriad approaches to music-making. While its peak position of 13 on the UK singles chart could be seen as something of a disappointment if released today, Unfinished Sympathy’s video clicked with the MTV crowd – Shara Nelson’s determined street-walking was immediately iconic, later referenced (read: stolen wholesale) by The Verve and parodied by Fat Les. Although it utilised samples, uncleared at the time, there was no doubting that the track signalled the arrival of a powerful pop force with unique ideas. It blew the floodgates open, and in the years that followed a thousand lesser acts aping Blue Lines’ melancholy-kissed claustrophobia, bubbling basslines and smoky vocals poured into the world’s bedsits and penthouses alike.
Of course, focusing on just Unfinished Sympathy doesn’t tell a fraction of the story to be discovered on this album. Horace Andy’s sweet, from-dark-to-light tones on the distant-thundering dread of Five Man Army, the noticeable emotional crack in Nelson’s voice as she delivers the chorus of Safe From Harm, the slinky funk of Lately, Hymn of the Big Wheel’s urban-evensong climax: there’s a wide spectrum of delights spread across these nine tracks. And if you’ve never indulged before – the likelihood is slim, surely – make sure that you slip inside this enduring masterpiece as soon as you can. Arguably, Massive Attack have never bettered this debut – and certainly, they’ve never sounded quite this hungry and fresh since.
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This has got to be one of the best albums of the 90's, one that redefined music and gave birth to the genre of 'trip-hop'. I know that sounds like a terrible exageration, but I really cannot think of anyone else who played this kind of music before Blue Lines.
Every track here is a killer - 'Five Man Army' is a favourite of mine, and 'Blue Lines' gives us a clue where the band were going to head in future years. There is such a range of vocal talent here, from the undoubted talents of Shara Nelson and Horace Andy to the slightly off-key talk/whisper of 3-D. I don't think any other band would be able to get away with such a diverse collection of vocal talent on one album.
I do and this little beauty is always there!
So, some background information for you. I used to be involved in the Bristol music scene in the eighties and in fact spent many a blissful night behind the decks at a number of Bristol's clubs, one of those being the now famous 'Dug Out' which was the foundation scene for the Wild Bunch and from there - well that's history and well documented.
So having seen the Wild Bunch in action all those years ago I found myself buying Blue Lines the day it came out in 1991, and having taken the purchase home sat back in amazement as from the dark undertones of "Safe from harm" to the final uplifting beauty of "Hymn of the big wheel" I knew that this was unlike anything I had ever heard before. How could a bunch of 'blaggers', as the guys used to refer to themselves as being, produce an absolute masterpiece and I mean masterpiece?
I guess we will never know but for me music has never quite been the same since. This CD never stays out of my home or car for long and even though I have followed Massive Attack like a religion since their birth, I still love this album more than anything else they have released.
Don't get me wrong, I treasure their subsequent releases and would always find a moment or a mood for each. 100th Window for instance is very dark and very different than anything else you can put your hands on currently which makes it so unique, but picture a sunny day in Bristol driving through St. Pauls or across the Downs and Blue Lines falls into place. I guess it's simply just a Bristol thing.... Read more ›
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