Blue Lines

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Blue Lines
Studio album by
Released8 April 1991 (1991-04-08)
  • Coach House (Bristol)
  • Eastcote (London)
  • Cherry Bear
  • Abbey Road (London)
  • Hot Nights (London)
Massive Attack chronology
Blue Lines
Singles from Blue Lines
  1. "Daydreaming"
    Released: 15 October 1990
  2. "Unfinished Sympathy"
    Released: 11 February 1991
  3. "Safe from Harm"
    Released: 27 May 1991
  4. "Hymn of the Big Wheel" / "Be Thankful for What You've Got"
    Released: 10 February 1992

Blue Lines is the debut studio album by English electronic music group Massive Attack,[a] released on 8 April 1991 by Wild Bunch and Virgin Records.[1] A remastered version of the album was released on 19 November 2012.[2]


"We worked on Blue Lines for about eight months, with breaks for Christmas and the World Cup," said Robert "3D" Del Naja, "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] The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Pink Floyd, Public Image Ltd., Billy Cobham, Wally Badarou, Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes.[4]

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.[5]

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


Blue Lines featured breakbeats, sampling, and rapping on a number of tracks, but the design of the album differed from traditional hip hop.[6] 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 is generally considered the first trip hop album,[7] although the term was not widely used before 1994. A fusion of electronic music, hip hop, dub, 1970s 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.[8] 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."[4]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[9]
The A.V. ClubA[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[11]
The Guardian5/5 stars[12]
Q4/5 stars[15]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[17]

In a contemporary review of Blue Lines, Dele Fadele of NME described the album as "the sleekest, deadliest, most urbane, most confounding LP 1991 has yet seen", writing that Massive Attack "put current changes on the dancefloor in perspective and map out blueprints for what must surely come next" and that "after Blue Lines the boundaries separating soul, funk, reggae, house, classical, hip-hop and space-rock will be blurred forever."[13] Select's Andrew Harrison similarly complimented the album's diverse mix of styles and called it "a record to transcend every boundary".[18] Robert Christgau was more reserved in his praise, giving the album a three-star honorable mention, which indicated "an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure". He cited "One Love" and "Be Thankful for What You've Got" as highlights and jokingly wrote, "from soul ii skank, those postindustrial blues got them down".[19]

The album reached number 13 on the UK Albums Chart; sales were limited elsewhere. Blue Lines proved to be popular in the club scene, as well as on college radio stations.[8]

According to Acclaimed Music, a site which uses statistics to numerically represent critical reception, Blue Lines is the 37th best-received album of all time, and third best-received of the 1990s.[20] 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. The following year, 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, and ranked 397 in a 2012 revised list.[21] Pitchfork ranked it at number 85 in its list of "The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s".[22] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[23] The track "Unfinished Sympathy" has also been singled out for praise, earning a BRIT Award nomination for the best single of 1991 and being hailed by BBC Music as "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."[24]

"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."[25]

As of February 2010, the album had sold 266,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[26]

Track listing[edit]

1."Safe from Harm"5:18
2."One Love"
3."Blue Lines"
4."Be Thankful for What You've Got"William DeVaughn4:09
5."Five Man Army"
  • Marshall
  • Vowles
  • Del Naja
  • Thaws
  • Claude Williams
6."Unfinished Sympathy"
  • Marshall
  • Vowles
  • Del Naja
  • Nelson
  • Gus Redmond
  • Larry Brownlee
  • Jeffrey Simon
  • Fred E. Simon
9."Hymn of the Big Wheel"
Total length:45:04


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Blue Lines.[27]


  • Coach House (Bristol) – recording (tracks 1, 2, 6, 8, 9); mixing (track 8)
  • Matrix (London) – mixing (tracks 1, 4–6, 9)
  • Konk Studios (London) – mixing (tracks 2, 7)
  • Eastcote Studios (London) – recording (tracks 3, 5)
  • Cherry Bear Studios – recording (tracks 4, 7)
  • Abbey Road Studios (London) – recording (track 6)
  • Roundhouse (London) – mixing (track 7)
  • Hot Nights (London) – recording (track 9)


  • Shara Nelson – vocals (tracks 1, 6–8)
  • Horace Andy – vocals (tracks 2, 5, 9)
  • Massive Attack – vocals (tracks 3, 5, 7)
  • Paul Johnson – bass guitar (track 3)
  • Tony Bryan – vocals (track 4)
  • Wil Malone – string arrangement, conducting (track 6)
  • Gavyn Wright – leader (track 6)
  • Neneh Cherry – additional arrangement (track 9)
  • Mikey General – backing vocal (track 9)


  • Massive Attack – production, mixing
  • Jonny Dollar – production, mixing
  • Booga Bear – executive production
  • Jeremy Allom – mix engineering (tracks 1, 3–7, 9)
  • Bryan Chuck New – mix engineering (tracks 2, 8)
  • Kevin Petri – engineering (tracks 3, 5)
  • Haydn – string engineering (track 6)



Chart (1991–2013) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[28] 69
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[29] 5
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[30] 81
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[31] 176
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[32] 39
European Albums (Music & Media)[33] 24
French Albums (SNEP)[34] 31
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[35] 31
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[36] 26
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[37] 29
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[38] 14
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[39] 26
UK Albums (OCC)[40] 13
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[41] 2


Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[42] 2× Gold 200,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[43] 2× Platinum 600,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ On certain releases, the group is credited as "Massive".


  1. ^ Arundel, Jim (30 March 1991). "Massive: Blue Lines". Sounds. London. p. 34.
  2. ^ "Massive Attack announce specially remastered Blue Lines reissue". Fact. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  3. ^ "You know the score!". Select. No. 19. January 1992. p. 51. ISSN 0959-8367.
  4. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (1998). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-415-92373-5.
  5. ^ Thompson, Ben (20 June 2004). "Blue Lines, Massive Attack". The Observer. London. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  6. ^ 'Massive Attack - Out of the Comfort Zone', Melissa Chemam, An Excerpt: "The Birth Of A New Form Of Band (1989-91)", 2019,
  7. ^ Garcia, Guy (25 October 1998). "Trip-Hop Reinvents Itself to Take on the World". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  8. ^ a b Schwartz, Mark (1999). "Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National". In Light, Alan (ed.). The Vibe History of Hip-hop. New York: Three Rivers Press. pp. 361–72.
  9. ^ Bush, John. "Blue Lines – Massive Attack". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  10. ^ Gallucci, Michael (20 November 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  12. ^ Petridis, Alexis (6 December 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines (remastered) – review". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  13. ^ a b Fadele, Dele (4 June 1991). "Massive – Blue Lines". NME. Archived from the original on 11 October 2000. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  14. ^ Raymer, Miles (30 November 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  15. ^ "Massive: Blue Lines". Q. No. 57. June 1991. ISSN 0955-4955.
  16. ^ Matos, Michaelangelo (20 December 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines". Rolling Stone. p. 104. ISSN 0035-791X.
  17. ^ Kot, Greg (2004). "Massive Attack". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 517–18. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  18. ^ a b Harrison, Andrew (April 1991). "Massive: Blue Lines". Select. No. 10. p. 80. ISSN 0959-8367.
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan Publishers. pp. xvi, 196. ISBN 0-312-24560-2.
  20. ^ "Massive Attack". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  21. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  22. ^ "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork. 17 November 2003. p. 2. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  23. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  24. ^ "Unfinished Sympathy". BBC Music. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  25. ^ Blender 2003 (issue date unknown)
  26. ^ Sexton, Paul (19 February 2010). "Massive Attack Prove New Album Was Worth The Wait". Billboard. Archived from the original on 18 September 2018. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  27. ^ Blue Lines (liner notes). Massive Attack. Wild Bunch Records. 1991. WBRCD 1.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  28. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  29. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  30. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  31. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  32. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  33. ^ "European Top 100 Albums" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8 no. 18. 4 May 1991. p. 24. OCLC 29800226 – via World Radio History.
  34. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines". Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  36. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines". Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  37. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines". Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  38. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines". Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  39. ^ " – Massive Attack – Blue Lines". Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  40. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  41. ^ "Official R&B Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  42. ^ "French album certifications – Massive Attack – Blue Lines" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 27 June 2000. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  43. ^ "British album certifications – Massive Attack – Blue Lines". British Phonographic Industry. 19 October 2001. Retrieved 10 October 2020.