Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Horace Andy - The Best Of Horace Andy (Trojan)

  

Horace Andy first started recording in the late sixties/early seventies but it was as a roots artist that he had his biggest successes. His career had a renaissance in 1990 as he was used as a guest vocalist on all five of "trip hop" group Massive Attack's albums.

This excellent compilation has good sound quality (although some of the earlier recordings are understandably a bit hissy) and concentrates largely on the roots period of the early/mid seventies and the clear move in Andy's music from the light poppiness of the early seventies classic reggae to the harder-edged roots of the 1975-78 period.

He was known for his light, melodic voice which is often a contrast to the heavy roots nature of at least some of the lyrics. He also dabbled in dancehall sounds in the early eighties. Although he was primarily a roots artist, the riddims are lighter and more airy than some similar artists of the time. A lot of Andy's songs, although containing a roots beat and roots vocal style are not Rastafarian devotional songs but love-themed songs. Most of Andy's roots material was produced by the legendary roots producer Bunny Lee and contains  the unique and recognisable "flying cymbal" percussion sound for which Lee coined the name. There are also those ubiquitous melodious horns backing most of the tracks. They were an essential part of roots reggae. So, there is a definite roots sound to the whole album, but not necessarily in all the lyrics.

"Skylarking" is a catchy, lively number with a fetching skank and delicious, quite subtle and melodic bass line. "Lonely Woman" is a love song but with a rootsy, bassy feel. Andy's cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" is as you would expect from the early seventies, very Ken Boothe in feel and vocal delivery. There is quite a bit of rock steady-influenced material on here too, from the late sixties/early seventies. Again, though, there is a rootsy mournfulness to tracks like "Let The Teardrops Fall" and "Don't Think About Me". Even on his romantically-themed songs, Andy always employed a deep, roots bass sound, as he does on the deep and sonorous "(Woman) Don't Try To Use Me". It has an excellent extended dubby passage at the end. "I'd Love You To Want Me" is a cover of Lobo's 1974 chart hit given an upbeat, brassy reggae makeover. "Sea Of Love" is another convincing, enthusiastic, upbeat cover of an easy listening standard. "My Guiding Star" is an excellent piece of early roots vibe backing a love song, as indeed is "Love Of A Woman", with its sharp cymbal sound.

There is, despite Andy's liking for a love song, some Rasta consciousness around in the pious "Psalm 68", the righteous "Zion Gate", the didactic rootsy classic "Money Money (Is The Root Of All Evil)" and "Hang On To Jah". "Materialist/Poor Man Style" has Andy speaking out about inequality over a tuneful skank and sumptuous bass line and "Collie Weed" and "Better Collie" are two of the expected roots tracks in praise of the sacred herb. "Satan's Side" is the album's most religiously fervent number, with an absolutely killer bass line. "God Is Displeased"'s title speaks for itself. "Them Never Tell I (Lie Teacher Girl)" is a magnificent piece of dubby, reverb-drenched roots reggae. It features a guest toaster in Ranking Buckers (not a toaster I am familiar with). He has a gruff voice in the Prince Far I/U-Roy style.

"Be My Queen" is a seductive number with big hints of Gregory Isaacs' early material about it, in its rhythm and backing. "Fever" is a number with a big thump of a backing and it sounds a far more bassier, fuller track than on "Skylarking: The Best Of Horace Andy". Maybe it is a later re-recording. "Elementary" has a similarly full, deep shuffling, dancehall, but poppy sound. "Natural Mystic" is a rootsy, edgy cover of the Bob Marley song.

All these Trojan compilations are very impressive, packed full of forty tracks each and retailing for not much money. The sound quality is great on them all. This Horace Andy one is no different and serves to show what a solid body of material he recorded, for a comparatively lesser-known roots reggae artist. There is some really good roots on here, but some enjoyable rock steady/classic reggae style stuff too.

TRACK LISTING

1. Skylarking
2. Lonely Woman
3. Ain't No Sunshine
4. Let The Teardrops Fall
5. (Woman) Don't Try To Use Me
6. Don't Think About Me
7. You Are My Angel
8. I'd Love You To Want Me
9. My Guiding Star
10. Psalm 68
11. Zion Gate
12. Money Money (Is The Root Of All Evil)
13. The Sea Of Love
14. Love Of A Woman
15. Materialist/Poor Man Style
16. Better Collie
17. Be My Queen
18. Fever
19. Elementary
20. See A Man's Face
21. Thank You Lord
22. I Feel Good All Over
23. Take My Hand
24. Satan Side
25. Goodnight My Love
26. God Is Displeased
27. Just Say Who
28. Bless You
29. Nice And Easy
30. (We Got To) Forward Home
31. (Play Fool Fe) Get Wise
32. No Man Is An Island
33. Them Never Tell I (Lie Teacher Girl)
34. A Serious Thing
35. Collie Weed
36. Natural Mystic
37. Hang On To Jah
38. Got To Be Sure
39. The Place I Want To Be
40. My Heart Is Gone

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