AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #75 : MASSIVE ATTACK

A guest posting from strictly rockers

Boy

Can I just start by saying how grateful I am to JC for letting me impose once again on his amazing blog. Having now done a handful of these ICAs, I have renewed admiration for him as he continually produces quality content daily, without fail. It’s hard enough getting the material together for one every few months, let alone every day! So, please raise a mug of whatever in gratitude to JC. I only hope this bulky what has been split into a two-parter lives up to T(n)VV’s high standard.

Massive Attack were formed from the ashes of The Wild Bunch sound system, a loose collective name-checked by Neneh Cherry on ‘Buffalo Stance’ (‘Looking good, hanging with the Wild Bunch. Looking good in a Buffalo Stance’). They recorded a couple of 12″s, including one that contained a cover of Bacharach & David‘s ‘The Look Of Love’ sung by a young singer called Shara Nelson (introduced to them by On-U Sound’s Adrian Sherwood). They split in the late eighties forming Soul II Soul in London and Massive Attack in Bristol.

With money, encouragement and studio space donated by Neneh Cherry and husband Cameron McVey (Booga Bear) work began on what would become ‘Blue Lines’ using singers from the Wild Bunch days (Tony Bryan, Shara Nelson & Tricky) and veteran reggae legend, Horace Andy. The original trio of 3D, Daddy G & Mushroom dispersed leaving only 3D trading as Massive Attack with a floating collective during the ‘100th Window’ sessions although Daddy G has since returned to both touring and studio work.

Their successful collaborative blueprint has been adopted by groups such as UNKLE & Gorillaz, both of which have strong links back to Massive Attack. 3D providing the artwork for the seminal Mo’Wax ‘Headz’ compilation (1994) and vocals on UNKLE’s ‘War Stories‘. Damon Albarn sings in character as 2D (an obvious nod to his friend) and has appeared on both ‘100th Window’ & ‘Heligoland‘.

Growing up in Bristol in the 1980s, I revelled in the city’s rich musical heritage and soaked up the reggae, soul, hip-hop and new wave played during my lunchtime browsing sessions in Revolver Records (incidentally, the workplace of one Grantley Marshall AKA Daddy G).

Mark Stewart, The Pop Group & Pigbag, The Blue Aeroplanes & Maximum Joy, The Brilliant Corners & The Flatmates, Talisman, Restriction & Black Roots. To my young, music-hungry ears, it was just great music. No genres, no labels. It could be a ‘Bristol thing’ but there seems to me to be a similar open-house music policy in Massive Attack.

As 3D has said: ‘We all grew up listening to punk & funk and those attitudes sort of snuck into our music. That sort of brought people from different circles together…’ Through them I have discovered, and come to appreciate many artists that I wouldn’t normally have encountered. Billy Cobham, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, William DeVaughan, Wally Badarou, Isaac Hayes, the list goes on.

Another key ingredient in the success of Massive Attack is their inspired use of vocalists, be it relatively unknowns (Tricky, Shara, Nicolette) or established voices benefiting from being moved from their usual musical world (Tracey Thorn, Elizabeth Fraser, Horace Andy, Terry Callier).

This ICA is all about those collaborators, the individuals that enrich the Massive Attack melting pot. Please enjoy responsibly.

‘You’re A Boy… And I’m A Girl’:

A Massive Attack Imaginary Compilation Album In Two Parts

Part One: ‘You’re A Boy…’

01) Any Love w/ Carlton (Single, 1988)

Massive Attack’s debut as a production trio in 1988. A cover of the Chaka Khan song with falsetto-voiced singer-songwriter Carlton McCarthy, co-produced by Bristol legends Smith & Mighty. Pointlessly re-recorded for the Massive Attack EP (1991) with vocals by Tony Bryan.

02) Be Thankful for What You’ve Got w/ Tony Bryan (From Blue Lines, 1991)

Speaking of whom… this brilliant cover of the classic William DeVaughan track from Blue Lines was also available in pitched-up ‘funky’ form for the US market.

03) Karmacoma w/ Tricky (Portishead Experience) (Single, 1995)

A mighty ‘Bristol scene’ supergroup with Massive, Tricky & Portishead (+ a large dose of Serge Gainsbourg). Just excellent. So good, in fact, that Tricky recycled the lyrics for his own ‘Overcome’

04) I Against I w/ Mos Def (Single, 2002)

MA’s music has always had a widescreen feel, so it seemed natural to move into film soundtracks. This slamming collaboration was a free download from massiveattack.com and featured in ‘Blade 2’.

05) Calling Mumia w/ Snoop Dogg (Download, 2007)

Officially credited to 100 Suns (3D with producer Neil Davidge) this was featured in the film ‘In Prison My Whole Life’ (which also features Mos Def) and, like ‘I Against I’, was composed with no direct contact between the two parties.

06) Man Next Door w/ Horace Andy (Single, 1999)

Brooding cover of the John Holt classic by the legend that is Horace Andy. Great samples of both The Cure’s ’10:15 Saturday Night’ & Led Zep’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’. Famously used at the 2000 Tory party conference heralding the entrance of William Hague. What were they thinking?

07) Saturday Come Slow w/ Damon Albarn (From Heligoland, 2009)

From the collaborator-rich ‘Heligoland’. A beautiful, pastoral slice of electronic folk about the ‘limestone caves of the south-west land’. Featuring Adrian Utley of Portishead on guitar. Ironically, the accompanying video explores the use of music as torture.

08) Live With Me w/ Terry Callier (Single, 2006)

Initially planned for inclusion on a soundtrack project that never materialised. A haunting love song with vocals from the late, great soul singer Terry Callier. Recalling the early MA sound, according to 3D: ‘It shuts those up who believe we can’t replicate our first album.’

09) Dead Editors w/ Roots Manuva (From Ritual Spirit EP, 2016)

Featuring a sample of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’, Roots Manuva fits perfectly into the Massive Attack universe. The EP also sees the return of Tricky on a Massive Attack record for the first time in 22 years (How old does that make you feel?).

10) Five Man Army w/ Willie Wee, 3D, Tricky, Daddy G & Horace Andy (From Blue Lines, 1991)

Starting with a sample from ‘I’m Glad You’re Mine’ by Al Green, this recalls their early sound-system days, with former Wild Bunch members freestyling over the Dillinger/Trinity classic ‘Five Man Dub’. Horace Andy fades out the jam by singing the titles of his hits… ‘Cuss Cuss’, ‘Money Money’ & ‘Skylarking’.

(Big-Name Bonus) Nature Boy w/ Bowie (From Moulin Rouge OST, 2001)

‘One more tune…’ Keen to have both Massive Attack and Bowie connected with his film, Baz Luhrmann made this collaboration possible although the two parties never actually met. The vocals were recorded in New York and sent to Bristol with all correspondence by email. Bowie was apparently ‘totally pleased’ with the results.

JC adds……

the mp3s can be listened to by clicking on the song titles above.  Come back tomorrow for Part 2.

4 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #75 : MASSIVE ATTACK

  1. Really enjoying this one. Massive Attack are a band that seemed a bit, um, unapproachable I guess is the word, because they always had so much going on that I didn’t know where to start. This selection is perfect and really serves the purpose of this ICA series: pay tribute to a great act and encourage newcomers to explore their catalog. Fantastic work, SR, can’t wait for set 2.

  2. Thanks for this. Not the obvious selection, which is great. There’s a few tunes I’ll need to sit down and listen to again.

    A big thanks for “Nature Boy”. I didn’t know about this song…there was me thinking I was a big fan of both MA and DB…and it’s wonderful. It would have been great as an 8th song on Blackstar.

    I hadn’t heard that version of Any Love before. I had first come across the song in Krafty Kuts’ “Back to Mine” compilation and more recently discovered the full version of it but this is a nice version and it’s greta to hear something from so early in their careers.

    Calling Mumia was another song I didn’t know, although I didn’t like this so much as I’m not a Snoop fan, particularly the start but it got better the song proceeds. Perhaps it just needs a few more listens.

    Looking forward to part 2.

  3. Whew! That is some heavy and beautiful music you’ve complled for Part 1. There is certainly something both mysterious and mystical about Massive Attack. They can manage to create beauty, elation, dread and sorrow with equal aplomb. I’m all set now for the “And I’m A Girl” selection.

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