Blue Lines

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Blue Lines

Blue Lines is the debut album by Massive Attack, released on April 8, 1991 by Virgin Records.

Generally considered the first trip hop album, though the term wasn't coined until several years later Blue Lines was a success in the United Kingdom, though sales were limited elsewhere. A fusion of electronic music, hip hop music, dub music, '70s soul music and reggae, the album established Massive Attack as one of the innovative British bands of the 1990s and the founder of trip hop's Bristol Sound. Music critic Simon Reynolds stated that the album also marked a change in electronic/dance music, "a shift toward a more interior, meditational sound. The songs on Blue Lines run at 'spliff' tempos - from a mellow, moonwalking 90 beats per minute ...down to a positively torpid 67 bpm.The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Pink Floyd, Public Image Ltd., Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes.

Blue Lines featured breakbeats, sampling, and rapping on a number of tracks, but the design of the album differed from traditional hip hop. Massive Attack approached the American-born hip hop movement from an underground British perspective, as well as incorporating live instruments into the mixes. It features the vocals of Shara Nelson and Horace Andy, along with the rapping of Tricky Kid. Blue Lines proved to be popular in the club scene, as well as on college radios.

Daddy G said about the making of the album: "We were lazy Bristol twats. It was Neneh Cherry who kicked our arses and got us in the studio. We recorded a lot at her house, in her baby's room. It stank for months and eventually we found a dirty nappy behind a radiator. I was still DJing, but what we were trying to do was create dance music for the head, rather than the feet. I think it's our freshest album, we were at our strongest then."

Contents

Critical acclaim

In 1997 Blue Lines was named the 21st "greatest album of all time" in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 1998, Q Magazine readers placed it at number 58 in its list of the '100 Greatest British Albums Ever;' and in 2000, the album was voted at number 9 in the same poll. In 2003, the album was ranked number 395 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Stuart Bailie of BBC Northern Ireland stated that, "It was soul music. But it had bold, symphonic arrangements. It featured samples of the Mahavishnu Orchestra going 'hey, hey hey, hey.' It had funky breaks and an emotional power that was hard to figure. It sounded anxious and lost. But there was a grandeur in the music also. People who came across the record became obsessed, spinning it endlessly."

The track "Unfinished Sympathy" has received high accolades, frequently described as one of the best songs of all time. It was nominated for a BRIT Award as best single of 1991. According to BBC.co.uk: "More than a decade after its release it remains one of the most moving pieces of dance music ever, able to soften hearts and excite minds just as keenly as a ballad by Burt Bacharach or a melody by Paul McCartney.


Track listing & credits

  1. "Safe from Harm"
    • Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  2. "One Love"
    • Horace Andy: vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol
    • Mixed at Konk Studios, London
    • Mix engineer: Bryan Chuck New
  3. "Blue Lines"
    • Massive Attack and Tricky: vocals
    • Recorded at Eastcote Studios, London
    • Engineer: Kevin Petri
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
    • Bass guitar: Paul Johnson
  4. "Be Thankful for What You've Got"
    • Tony Bryan: vocals
    • Recorded at Cherry Bear Studios
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  5. "Five Man Army"
    • Massive Attack, Horace Andy, Tricky, and Claude "Willie Wee" Williams: vocals
    • Recorded at Eastcote Studios, London
    • Engineer: Kevin Petri
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  6. "Unfinished Sympathy"
    • Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol, and Abbey Road Studios, London
    • Strings engineer: Hayden
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
    • Strings arranged and conducted by Wil Malone
    • Leader: Gavin Wright
  7. "Daydreaming"
    • Massive Attack, Tricky, and Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded at Cherry Bear Studios
    • Mixed at Konk Studios and Roundhouse, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  8. "Lately"
    • Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded and mixed at Coach House, Bristol
    • Mix engineer: Bryan Chuck New
  9. "Hymn of the Big Wheel"
    • Horace Andy: vocals
    • Neneh Cherry: backing vocals, additional arrangement
    • Mikey General: backing vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol, and Hot Nights, London
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom

Singles

  • "Daydreaming" (October 15, 1990)
  • "Unfinished Sympathy" (February 11, 1991)
  • "Safe from Harm" (May 27, 1991)
  • "Hymn of the Big Wheel" / "Be Thankful for What You've Got" (a.k.a. Massive Attack EP) (February 10, 1992)

Chart positions

Billboard Music Charts (North America) - "Safe from Harm" single

Year Chart Position
1991 Modern Rock Tracks 28
1991 Hot Dance Music/Club Play 35
1991 Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 32