Blue Lines

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Blue Lines
Studio album by Massive Attack
Released 8 April 1991
Recorded 1990, Bristol and London
Genre Trip hop, alternative hip hop
Length 45:02
Label Virgin Records, Circa
Producer Massive Attack, Jonny Dollar and Booga Bear (executive producer) [1]
Massive Attack chronology
Blue Lines
(1991)
Protection
(1994)

Blue Lines is the debut album by English trip hop group Massive Attack, released on 8 April 1991 by Virgin Records. A remastered version of the album was released on 19 November 2012.[2]

Background[edit]

"We worked on Blue Lines for about eight months, with breaks for Christmas and the World Cup," said 3D, "but we started out with a selection of ideas that were up to seven years old. Songs like 'Safe from Harm' and 'Lately' had been around for a while, from when we were The Wild Bunch, or from our time on the sound systems in Bristol. But the more we worked on them, the more we began to conceive new ideas too – like, 'Five Man Army' came together as a jam."[3]

Blue Lines is generally considered the first trip hop album,[4] although the term was not widely used before 1994.

The album reached No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart; sales were limited elsewhere. A fusion of electronic music, hip hop, dub, '70s soul and reggae, it established Massive Attack as one of the most innovative British bands of the 1990s and the founder of trip hop's Bristol Sound.[5]

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."[6]

The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Pink Floyd, Public Image Ltd., Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes.[6]

Structure[edit]

An excerpt from "Unfinished Sympathy", the most successful single from Blue Lines.

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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 and also incorporated 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 radio stations.[7]

The font used on the cover of the album is Helvetica Bold Italic. Del Naja has acknowledged the influence of the inflammable material logo used on the cover of Stiff Little Fingers' album Inflammable Material.

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.[8]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 98/100[9]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[10]
The A.V. Club A[11]
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention)[12]
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10[13]
BBC Music very positive[14]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[15]
Q Magazine 4/5 stars[16]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[17]
New Zealand Herald 5/5 stars[18]
PopMatters 7/10[19]

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 readers placed it at number 58 in its list of the "100 Greatest Albums Ever", and in 2000, the album was voted at number 9 in the magazine's poll of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever". In 2003, the album was ranked number 395 on Rolling Stone'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."[20]

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. It also appeared on the soundtrack for the 1993 Sharon Stone film Sliver.[5] According to BBC Music: "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 Bacharach or a melody by McCartney."[21]

In 1997, English musician Barry Adamson sampled the song "Blue Lines" in "Something Wicked This Way Comes" for the soundtrack of the movie Lost Highway.

"This album is chill music for me – music to write to," said author Chuck Palahniuk. "I'm writing short stories to this right now. I put this on repeat, something Andy Warhol used to do. He'd put singles on and play them unendingly to the point where the language would break down, and he would paint to that trance-like repetition."[22]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by in part by Massive Attack (Marshall, Vowles, Del Naja). 

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Safe from Harm" (sampled "Stratus" by Billy Cobham and "Good Old Music by Funkadelic) Massive Attack, Nelson, Cobham 5:18
2. "One Love" (sampled "You Know, You Know" by Mahavishnu Orchestra and "Ike's Mood I" by Isaac Hayes) Massive Attack, Andy, Williams, McLaughlin, Wolinski 4:48
3. "Blue Lines" (sampled "Sneakin' in the Back" by Tom Scott) Massive Attack, Thaws, Max Bennett, Brown, Carlton, Guerin, Sample, Scott 4:21
4. "Be Thankful for What You've Got"   DeVaughn 4:09
5. "Five Man Army" (sampled "I'm Glad You're Mine" by Al Green and "Five Man Dubb" by Lewin Bones Lock) Massive Attack, Thaws, Williams 6:04
6. "Unfinished Sympathy" (sampled "Planetary Citizen" by Mahavishnu Orchestra) Massive Attack, Nelson, J. Sharp 5:08
7. "Daydreaming" (sampled "Mambo" by Wally Badarou) Massive Attack, Nelson, Thaws, Badarou 4:14
8. "Lately" (sampled "Mellow Mellow Right On" by Lowrell Simon and "Joy" by Isaac Hayes) Massive Attack, Nelson, Redmond, Brownlee, J. Simon, F. E. Simon 4:26
9. "Hymn of the Big Wheel"   Massive Attack, Andy, Cherry 6:36

Personnel[edit]

  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 Adrian "Tricky" Thaws: 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, Adrian "Tricky" Thaws, 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: Gavyn Wright
  7. "Daydreaming"
    • Massive Attack, Adrian "Tricky" Thaws, 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
    • Michael "Mikey General" Taylor : backing vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol, and Hot Nights, London
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom

Singles[edit]

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

Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Peak
position
1991 UK Albums Chart 13[23]
Year Title Chart Peak
position
1991 "Unfinished Sympathy" UK Singles Chart 13[23]
1991 "Safe from Harm" UK Singles Chart 25[23]
1991 "Safe from Harm" US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 28[24]
1991 "Safe from Harm" US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play 35[24]
1991 "Safe from Harm" US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 32[24]
1992 Massive Attack E.P. UK Singles Chart 27[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Massive-Attack-Blue-Lines/release/11878
  2. ^ "Massive Attack announce specially remastered Blue Lines reissue". FACT Magazine. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Select, circa December 1991/January 2002, the issue in which Blue Lines was rated the fifth best album of 1991
  4. ^ Guy Garcia (25 October 1998). "Trip-Hop Reinvents Itself to Take on the World". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Schwartz, Mark. "Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National." In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 361-72. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
  6. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (1998). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 0-415-92373-5. 
  7. ^ Schwartz, Mark. "Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National."
  8. ^ Ben Thompson (20 June 2004). "Blue Lines, Massive Attack". The Observer (London). Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  9. ^ "Blue Lines: 2012 Mix/Master Reviews". Metacritic. 19 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Allmusic Review
  11. ^ Gallucci, Michael (20 November 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines | MusicalWork Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-12-05. 
  12. ^ "Robert Christgau Review". Robertchristgau.com. 
  13. ^ "Massive Attack: Blue Lines | Album Reviews". Pitchfork Media. 30 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-05. 
  14. ^ "Music – Review of Massive Attack – Blue Lines". BBC. Retrieved 2012-12-05. 
  15. ^ Alexis Petridis (6 December 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines (remastered) – review". The Guardian (London). 
  16. ^ Q, June 1991. A review of the reissue in the December 2012 edition ("A classic in the truest sense, and unimprovable template that sounds like it was recorded yesterday—or tomorrow") upped the star rating to 5|5
  17. ^ "Massive Attack: Blue Lines | Music Review". Slant Magazine. 2 November 2002. Retrieved 2012-12-05. 
  18. ^ '+nick_name+' (24 November 2012). "Album review: Massive Attack – Blue Lines – Entertainment – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 
  19. ^ Bergstrom, John. "Massive Attack: Blue Lines 2012 Remix/Remaster". PopMatters. 
  20. ^ BBC Northern Ireland – Blue Lines[dead link]
  21. ^ "Unfinished Sympathy". BBC. 
  22. ^ Blender 2003 (issue date unknown)
  23. ^ a b c d "Massive Attack UK Chart History". Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  24. ^ a b c "Allmusic: Massive Attack - Charts & Awards". Retrieved 11 October 2013.