45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 13)

A GUEST SERIES


34. Safe From Harm – Massive Attack (1991 Virgin Records)

Released as a single May 1991 (reached Number 25)

For some reason I always associate this song with Gulf War 1, even though it came out a good three months after that invasion had ended. It’s probably to do with the title of the song and because during the war, Massive Attack were forced by Virgin Records to drop the word ‘Attack’ from their name otherwise they wouldn’t get radio play. I think I assumed that this was the song that was released during Gulf War but in reality it was ‘Unfinished Symphony’ I think. Which seems as good a reason to post that as you are ever going to need.

Unfinished Symphony

Anyway, let’s talk about war. That’s a happy and cheerful subject for those of you with a morning head. During the 1990 oil sponsored invasion of Kuwait and Iraq, a few of us wrote to a couple of chaps who were out in the Gulf. They were both local lads, one of whom, strangely enough, went to school with OPG’s brother, and we used to write to them about what was going on in Gillingham, sending them snippets from the local paper about the footballs fortunes (or lack of…) and scandalous gossip that we’d heard.

My mate Richard wrote to a lad who I’m going to call Wayne, I’ve changed his name, he was 21 years old and had been in the army for 3 years before heading out to the Gulf. He was in the Royal Engineers and used to write to Richard about the heat, the lack of alcohol, the terrible food and being spat at in the street. He seemed happy though.

In January 1991 it snowed in the UK, it snowed a lot – I mean those of you in Canada and parts of American and Scandinavia can understandably thumb your nose at that, but for us in the South East of England anything more than 2 inches of snow in a single morning causes society to breakdown. Actual fist fights break out at the Co-op for the last loaf of Morning Pride and thefts of goats rocket so that people can still drink milk.

Anything more than 3 inches and the Daily Mail goes into an apoplectic meltdown and rages about “Snowmageddon” and how it was all Neil Kinnock fault (they actually said that).

Where was I..? Oh yes, snow, Richard wrote and told Wayne about the snow and how we’d all found an old car bonnet in some woods at a place called Darland Banks in Gillingham and we were using the car bonnet to charge down the slopes of the Banks at breakneck speed before crashing through the hedge at the bottom onto the road. It was deliriously funny.

Normally Richard would get a response in a couple of weeks, but he got nothing this time, February came along, the snow all melted and the war ended in a 3 all draw. Still no response from Wayne. Richard sort of forgot about him – I mean we were 15 and 16 years old and we probably thought we had better things to think about.

March comes along and one morning I am out delivering copies of the Medway Times and there on the front page is a story about a Gulf War Soldier from Medway, aged 21, who lost both of his legs in an incident involving a mortar bomb and an army jeep. He’d been driving the jeep to try and assist some of his colleagues who had become stranded in a dangerous part of town. They’d come under attack and the result of that is what is documented above. It also pointed out quite angrily that this chap was being denied the services that he deserved.

I mean a Conservative run service treating people badly, who’d a thought it.

Of course, it was Wayne, you’ve guessed that. Richard, was deeply upset about it and decided to do something about it. He tracked him down and with the help of his parents and the local paper and about a thousand other people. Collectively they managed to get him some support, they got him some specialist housing, they got him some work. A women cleaned his house for him for free for two years, just because she could.

I’ve met Wayne, I’ve spent a good deal of time with him, through Richard, and he’s lovely. He is totally humbled by what people did for him. He still goes to see Gillingham on a regular basis, in fact the last time I saw him was down at the stadium, although that was some time ago. He also set up and runs a charity for people like him who have suffered horrific injuries through warfare. He does that in his spare time.

Wayne now works in IT, he is married with children (one of whom is in the navy, not that its relevant). Richard was his best man at his wedding. Which I think is lovely.

SWC

 

 

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (17/22)

Album : Mezzanine – Massive Attack
Review : Rolling Stone, 28 May 1998
Author : Barney Hoskyns

Elder statesmen of the moody dance genre that used to trade under the facile name of trip-hop, Massive Attack like to take their time making albums – so long, indeed, that they perpetually run the risk of being overtaken by the very people (Björk, Tricky, Portishead, et al.) they’ve influenced.

One of Massive Attack’s strengths, though, is their indifference to passing fads. In a field where career longevity is a contradiction in terms, the assiduously anonymous trio from Bristol, England, give themselves the time and space to create music that lasts. And Mezzanine, their third album proper after Blue Lines (1991) and Protection (1995), shows that their creative edge is far from dulled.

Like its forebears, the record is a richly eclectic, unpigeonholeable artifact – king dubby meets the rockers uptown, with funk and jazz and hip-hop and even kraut rock all showing up for the party. Like its forebears, too, Mezzanine demonstrates exemplary taste in guest singers: no husky Tracey Thorn (who sang on Protection) this time, but an admirable substitute in the shape of Cocteau Twins siren Liz Fraser, together with the unearthly high tenor of Jamaican veteran Horace Andy.

Andy, who appeared on both Blue Lines and Protection (and who has his own marvelous anthology, Skylarking, on Massive Attack’s Melankolic label), is the star of two high points here. The opener, “Angel,” starts like some lean and mean R&B; track, then builds slowly through Andy’s haunted vocal to explode in a guitar-heavy chorus. Even better is the ominous “Man Next Door,” a troubled tale of urban angst that brilliantly evokes the pressure-cooker intensity of modern-day Kingston, Jamaica.

There are weaknesses on the album: Sometimes rhythm and texture are explored at the expense of memorable tunes, and the absence of the bizarre Tricky (who appeared on Blue Lines and Protection) only highlights the flat, monotonous rapping of the group’s 3-D. But Mezzanine remains a splendidly mercurial record, packed with amazing sounds and mesmeric grooves – a trip, in fact.

mp3 : Massive Attack – Angel
mp3 : Massive Attack – Teardrop
mp3 : Massive Attack – Man Next Door
mp3 : Massive Attack – Mezzanine

JC adds : I’ve long admired Barney Hoskyns as a writer and I was genuinely surprised to discover that he had contributed in the past to Rolling Stone.  It’s great to see that the prejudices previously on show in that publication (and highlighted in an earlier part of this series) had been swept away come the late 90s.

 

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (12)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THURSDAY 8 MAY 2008

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Another entry where few words are really needed.

I’ve loads of Tracey Thorn records, dating back to her time with The Marine Girls, as a solo artist and of course with Everything But The Girl.

But she has never sounded better than on this:-

mp3 : Massive Attack – Protection (LP version)

No point in me repeating what I’ve said previously about dance acts/dance music and how I’m not well-enough qualified to comment with much conviction.

But somehow I’ve never really regarded Massive Attack as a dance-band – particularly when thinking about their best singles. If the one song per artist rule in this chart didn’t exist, then Teardrop would be in here. Both songs are equally gorgeous, haunting, unique and unforgettable. But in my mind, Tracey shades it over Elizabeth Fraser.

Why?

I think its because Protection is one of the best lyrics ever recorded by a female artist – its full of conviction, passion, love and strength without ever falling into the trap of being soppy or maudlin.

There was also a brilliant and imaginative video made for Protection.

Incidentally, strictly rockers would have had no idea that this was due up next in this rundown; it is one of life’s great coincidences that it follows on so soon after his ICA double-header.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #76 : MASSIVE ATTACK

a guest posting from strictly rockers

Girl

You’re A Boy… And I’m A Girl’:

A Massive Attack Imaginary Compilation Album In Two Parts

Part Two: ‘… And I’m A Girl’

01) Safe From Harm w/ Shara Nelson (From Blue Lines, 1991)

Spine-tingling. With opening atmospherics reminiscent of The Special’s ‘Ghost Town’, that bassline from Billy Cobham’s ‘Stratus’ and stunning vocal from Shara, this track fuels Richard King’s journey through Bristol in his excellent ‘Original Rockers’ book. ‘I was lookin’ back to see if you were looking’ back at me to see me looking’ back at you’

02) Paradise Circus w/ Hope Sandoval (From Heligoland, 2010)

A majestic vocal from the Mazzy Star vocalist. Once again, neither party met each other until after the recording. It features a drum sample from Nina Simone’s ‘See Line Woman’ and was used as the theme to BBC1’s ‘Luther’. Also available in excellent Gui Boratto and super-extended Burial mixes.

03) Three w/ Nicolette (From Protection, 1994)

Great vocals from the singer described as ‘Billie Holiday on acid’. Almost tempted to include Mad Professor’s bubbling’ ‘Trinity Dub’ version.

04) Better Things w/ Tracey Thorn (From Protection, 1994)

In my mind, far superior to ‘Protection’. ‘You say the magic’s gone. Well i’m not a magician. You say the spark’s gone. Well get an electrician’ Just genius!

05) Group Four w/ Elizabeth Fraser (From Mezzanine, 1998)

Equal to, if not better than ‘Teardrop’ from Massive Attack’s most successful album. Often stretched out live as a storming set-closer.

06) Babel w/ Martina Topley-Bird (From Heligoland, 2010)

A ‘teenage love song’ from Tricky’s Mercury Prize nominated Maxinquaye muse.

07) What Yr Soul Sings w/ Sinead O’Connor (From 100th Window, 2003)

Soaring. Heavenly. One of three Sinead tracks on 100th Window. I could have picked any of ’em.

08) Endtrack (Dissolved Girl) w/ Sara Jay (Download, 1997)

Featuring a previously unknown singer from Sheffield who toured with MA. This is an early demo version of ‘Dissolved Girl’ as heard as part of ‘The Jackal’ soundtrack. Later re-recorded as part of Mezzanine.

09) Aftersun w/ Dot Allison (Download, 2005)

Former One Dove singer and MA live vocalist on this powerful song tucked away as the credits roll on ‘Danny The Dog’. Shamefully omitted from the soundtrack album and only available as digital release from dotallison.com.

10) Unfinished Sympathy w/ Shara Nelson (Single, 1991)

Just magnificent. Officially voted the 63rd greatest song of all time in NME poll! The second appearance of Shara Nelson in this compilation with that sweeping orchestration arranged by Will Malone and recorded at Abbey Road. Mrs Rockers says, that if forced, she would pick this as ‘our tune’. Sweet eh? (We’ll just gloss over the atrocious Tina Turner cover from 1996)

(Big Name Bonus) I Want You w/ Madonna (From Something To Remember, 1995)

Huge-sounding production as Madonna & Massive Attack take on the mighty Marvin. Vocals recorded in New York with 3D before returning to Bristol. She was so impressed with the results that it became the lead single from her ‘Something To Remember’ album. Rumour has it that the backing tracks were originally intended for Chaka Khan.

 

BONUS………………………Boys vs Girls EP

Massive Attack Remixes, Remixed & Covered

EP

1) Protection (Eno Mix) Massive Attack (Single, 1994)

I couldn’t NOT include this, the song that gives this ICA it’s title. Mr Ambient does what he does best and stretches this atmospheric beauty to over 9 minutes.

2) Teardrop (Mad Professor Mazaruni Dub) Massive Attack (Single, 1998)

The Prof’s laid back dub somehow makes the vocal even more powerful by reducing it to its most basic elements.

3) Musst Musst (Massive Attack Duck Pond Dub) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Single, 1990)

As featured on Daddy G’s excellent DJ Kicks mix. He called it ‘the most enjoyable remix we’ve ever done.’

4) Manchild (Massive Attack Remix) Neneh Cherry (Remix 12″, 1989)

Stripped-down, minimal mix of the single co-written by 3D. ‘Remix… Massive Attack’

5) Live With Me Twilight Singers (From A Stitch In Time EP, 2006)

Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan take the original to a much darker place.

6) Unfinished Sympathy Maxene Cyrin (From Modern Rhapsodies, 2005)

Simple, effective & delicate. Reduces the original to a bare minimum. Just beautiful.

JC adds……

I’ll sign off with the TVV word of the week.

Wow.

 

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.

SEE ME RUN NOW YOU’RE GONE….DREAM ON

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I was someone who didn’t pay much attention to Massive Attack in terms of their singles. In an era when CD albums were in the region of £12-£15 and singles were usually £4, it didn’t make much sense unless you were something of an uber-fan to buy the singles.

I picked up a copy of the album Mezzanine not longer after its release in April 1998, partly on the back of having really enjoyed the previous album Protection, but partly as I adored what I thought had been its lead-off single Teardrop featuring a stunning vocal from Elizabeth Fraser.   The fact that there had been an earlier advance single as far back as August 1997 had totally passed me by and indeed until I saw a copy in a second-hand store a few months back I had always thought the record label had missed out on the chance of releasing what I felt was one of many stand out tracks from the album:-

mp3 : Massive Attack – Risingson

In fact, the single had reached #11 in the charts which really shows how little attention I had been paying.  The CD single came with two more than decent remixes along with a different track which was like finding treasure at the end of the rainbow:-

mp3 : Massive Attack – Risingson (The Underdog remix)
mp3 : Massive Attack – Risingson (Otherside)
mp3 : Massive Attack – Superpredators (The Mad Professor Remix)

My favourite Siousxie & The Banshees song is Metal Postcard…..and that’s the very song which is heavily sampled to make Superpredators.

Enjoy.