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4.7 out of 5 stars115
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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Trip-hop was never so dark and magnificently despairing as it is here. Portishead draws listeners into a velvety abyss in debut album "Dummy," a glorious blend of jazzy instrumentation, subtle electronica, and Beth Gibbons' sweet moaning vocals.
"Mysterons" opens with an chilly, ghostly air, followed by the exotic despair of "Sour Times" and the jazzy, eerie "Strangers" and "Wandering Star." Portishead delves into pure trip-hop in the pulsing "It Could Be Sweet" and "Numb," then synthesizes strings and stately organ in "It's A Fire," before wrapping things up with the steady lament "Glory Box," with its undulating riffs.
A noir feel permeates "Dummy," giving a grounded feel to the spacier edges of the music. It's easy to imagine trenchcoats, smoky offices, rainy days and femme fatales set to this music. It's soaked in melancholy and dreamy depression, set to music.
The blend of lounge music and trip-hop could have been awkward, but it blends seamlessly. The Rhodes and magnificent Hammond organ are the core of the silky unearthly sound, adding an epic feel to many of the songs. At the same time, the flexible guitar riffs and jazzy percussion bring it down to earth. And the Hammond does double-time as a jazz instrument as well, even when paired with strings.
Beth Gibbons's vocals are outstanding: high and clear and sweet, except in "Strangers," where she sounds like her voice is being filtered through an old radio. She pours plenty of emotion into the despairing lyrics. The songs themselves are simple and evocative, with loneliness and regret dripping from them. ("The salvation I desire/Keeps getting me down")
Jazz and trip-hop blend seamlessly into the beautiful haunting whole that is "Dummy." A beautiful experience, and one of the best albums of the 1990s.
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Dummy is the debut album of the Bristol-based group Portishead. Dummy is one of those CDs that still sounds as fresh as the day that it was released. So what's all the fuss about? Well basically, it's one of those exceptional albums where almost every single beat seems to be in place, every single little record scratch and sample fits into the mix and provides even more atmosphere, and lyrics that just melt in your mind. Each track really does create a new atmosphere of its very own that runs the range of emotions. Beth Gibbons is one of the main reasons this album truly comes to the fore. Gibbons effortlessly creates mood on every track, whether she's crooning on "It Could Be Sweet" or strutting it out to full effect on "Glory Box." Overall, if you're into trip-hop even the slightest and don't own this album, you should probably drop whatever you're doing and go out and buy it right now.
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VINE VOICEon 15 March 2006
This beautifully haunting record is one of those indispensables that any serious music fan has in their collection. I remember being completely blown away by the originality the first time I heard it. The punchy, nuerotic beats and the cold distant voice of Beth Gibbons. I guess if you could refer to trip-hop as a genre, this has to be it´s signature album.
"Mysterons," sounds like a martian landing, Gibbon´s distinctive voice unfurls the track with a steely brittleness. This music sounds purposefully distant and edgy. I like the curling beat on the second track,"Sour times." My personal favourite has to be the intro to the pulsating beat on,"strangers."
"It´s a fire," is the only track that sounds slightly out of place. It is the only track on the album that sounds like something you may have heard before.
The ranging,"Roads," is another extremely inventive track that preludes the classic,"glory box." Gibbons sounds like a battered, wounded woman on this song. Her lyrical approach is totally unique.
What more can I say about this? It´s engaging, strangely distant but at the same time thoroughly seductive. A must buy.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 January 2003
Quite simply this is one of the finest cds of the 1990s. The mood, arrangements and performances are quite astonishing.
Beth Gibbons sings the blues, backed up by a blending of sampled loops, hip-hop doodles and live instruments.
It defined the sub genre of Trip Hop. It contains elements of 60s soundtrack, jazz and goodness knows what else.
In Sour Times and Glory Box it also boasts amongst the finest songwriting of its generation. As has been proved by artistes like John Martyn (who covered Glory Box) this stuff does not need its classy fururistic arrangement to stand. These songs would shine with just an acoustic guitar backing.
Mind-bogglingly good, and a must-have.
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on 29 October 2005
I heard this late last night at a friend's flat, and couldn't speak from start to finish! Frighteningly good, this CD demands your attention and your heart, mainly because of the stark and haunting emotional vocals. That's not to say the music is not totally in-keeping, well executed and highly imaginative too.
I have no idea how I missed this CD before now, as I am a great fan of Massive Attack, but I thank heaven that I know about it now, and have ordered it today. I thoroughly recommend that you do the same - if you do, you are in for a real treat. I fully expect to be listening to this CD until the day I die and hopefully after that too, as this is truly music from heaven itself!
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on 25 September 2008
I had heard the name 'Portishead' floating around electronica forums on the net but had never acted on the actions of other people's critic of their music. However, I came onto amazon and found a nearly all 5 star review from all the reviews so I just had to buy as a vivid fan on trip hop style music.
From first glance, you can hear how much Massive Attach have been influenced by this gritty, smooth jazzy 90's trip hop feel, it feels like a 45 minute drug that intises you into a olbivion of funk and future feel.
Trip hop has never really sounded so innovative and fresh even in the new millenium. The more recent trip hop artists like tycho and bonobo take on more of an electronica influence on trip hop, and as much as I feel that style, this laid back jazzy, guitar influenced style really hits top marks.
The lyrical use is no exception, Again zero 7 taking major influences from the vocal use in the slow trip hop beat.
A stand out track for me is 9, it's sublime feel, or crackling beats and small samples that make you feel pretty much amazing, the use of builds etc. These are all prime examples of exquisite trip hop/down tempo bliss.

You can kinda imagine listening to this when travelling through London on a rainy, dingy night - watching the crime and drugs, it's a beautiful sensation but with a grimey undertone.
As a huge fan of everything electronica, this is a fantastic representation of what trip hop IS and should BE.
I however, feel that people would also enjoy this if they just like to sit back and enjoy the small things in life in music.
I can pretty much see this album being a huge influence on me and my musical desire.
Hugely recommended.
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on 21 July 2008
Hmmm, how does one sum up this album in just a few words? Dark, mysterious, melodic, industrial, melancholic, desolate - any or all of these apply. Others have already waxed lyrical about the 'feel' of the album, but I think you really have to listen to it - all of it. Maybe even a few times, as it took a few listens for me to really 'get it'.
As soon as I did 'get it' I totally loved it, and it remains one of the most frequently played albums in my collection even after nearly 15 years.
Never bettered or even equalled by Portishead since in my opinion.
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on 24 February 2013
I owned this in the mid nineties when it first came out - i loved it and played it all the time... i don't what happened to my copy of (it was a tape in those days!) but it vanished along the way at last i decided it was time to get this wonderful music back into my life - and i'm VERY glad i did!
This album is just incredible, so chilled, so lovely, multifaceted, amazing music - easily the best Portishead album, the others were good too, but not THIS good....can't be beaten...BUY IT! <3
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on 16 November 2015
NEVER FORGET FIRST HEARING THIS! Back in the early nineties I was coming back from London with my pal after a heavy private party where he DJed and I beat boxed and it was a loft party such a great time. Anyways, coming back he said wack that cd on, so I did. I was blown away by the vulnerable, dark, mysterious lyrics and well produced back beats and sounds that were fresh and unique. I never tired of the album and it still is one of the best albums to come out of Bristol. Being from Bristol I have seen many changes in the music including Portishead these days and so, although things always change and develop some things are best left alone, this album is one of those timeless classics. I never loved any of there stuff AS MUCH as this after. Its a bit like when Blue Lines came out from Massive Attack or Tricky's Maxinquaye or Zero 7's Simple Things these are Albums that will always stand the test of time.
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on 2 January 2011
My title says it all really - I just can't believe it's taken me 15 years to get hold of a copy! I never thought I'd be the sort of person who would be listening to jazz-infused, film-noir styled, scratch-laden downtempo, yet not only am I listening, I'm loving it more than anything else I've ever listened to! Other reviewers have done enough to explain just why this is such an aural delight. All I want to add is that it is very rare that an album brings with it complete satisfaction and joy in the way that 'Dummy' does to me - it's as close to perfection as I've ever encountered.

Not one single weak track, no fillers, not even any annoying bits that could have been done without (as in the follow up 'Portishead'). As such, you can speak to a dozen different people about 'Dummy' and they will all have different combinations of their fave tracks - that's quite rare and shows the strength of the album. 'Sour Times', 'Strangers', 'Numb', 'Roads', 'Pedestal' - I can't decide! Who cares, just buy it and play it from start to finish as it deserves!
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