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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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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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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2014
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 11 February 2016
Just can't fault Portishead & again Beth Gibbons vocals take there music to a different level there isn't a female artist that comes close the music with the vocals make Dummy a must in any collection .
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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 somewhere....so 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 1 December 2001
I can imagine this band standing in an empty room with their eyes closed and playing their music with the same beauty and delicate but passionate vibes that are on the album to themselves and people just walked through the door and letting their conscience go. I first listened to the album after i heard a review and biography of the group on the radio. Even a few moments of a couple of the album tracks forced me rush out and get the album. I was not disappointed . In fact I was extremely pleased. It proved itself to be an amazing album and regardless of its age it , to me , is a timeless record. For ever and ever amen. This has a permanent home in my cd collection.
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on 21 October 2015
This review is for the 11 track version, the version of Dummy that has 'It's A Fire' on it.

I never realised It's A Fire was on Dummy - my CD copy from 1994 doesn't feature this track. So I felt compelled to get this version of the album to add to my mini Portishead collection. Anyone know why it got removed from other editions of the album?

If you're new to Portishead I would recommend getting this version because It's a A Fire is a fantastic track and enhances an already mega album to even greater heights of excellence and art. To have the album without this track, well, you'd be missing out! Go get it!!
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on 23 August 2016
Like a lot of 90's albums I think they messed something up a bit when mixing for CD.

Put this vinyl on a high end turntable and Beth's voice just sounds amazing, fallen back in love with this.
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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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