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In the Light

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In the Light/In the Light Dub (Blood & Fire, 1995 [orig. released 1977])

Horace Andy has remained a popular reggae singer for decades -- traveling through rock steady/early reggae, lovers rock, and dancehall -- due to his likeable helium-filled vocals and catchy songwriting skills.  In the Light is generally considered one of his best albums, and anytime you can get a dub of an album thrown in, it's a good thing (Now, if only Blood & Fire could've thrown in Burning Spear's Living Dub Volume 1 with their re-release of Social Living. . .).  While In the Light has some great stuff on it -- the rocking "Do You Love My Music," the emotional "Government Land," the light, bouncy "Leave Rasta," and remakes of a couple of hits he had earlier in his career, the fun "Fever" and "Problems," which rides the killer bass line from "Mr. Bassie" -- I can't help but feeling a bit unfulfilled by the other songs.  As with Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost set, I find the dub version,  mixed by King Jammy, to be a bit better, allowing the marvelously funky music -- played by the likes of Leroy Sibbles, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Tommy McCook, and Augustus Pablo -- to take center stage.  Accentuated percussion and bass, crashing cymbals, and echoing horns propel these dubs into your psyche, although still, the less impressive vocal tracks produce less impressive dubs (although I very much enjoy "I & I" while not being thrilled by "If I"; strange, huh?). 

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In the Light Dub: tiny_mark_rasta__head.GIF (2174 bytes)tiny_mark_rasta__head.GIF (2174 bytes)tiny_mark_rasta__head.GIF (2174 bytes)rastahalfhead.gif (1519 bytes)

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Track Listing
1. Do You Love My Music
2. Hey There Woman
3. Government Land
4. Leave Rasta
5. Fever
6. In the Light
7. Problems
8. If I
9. Collie Herb
10. Rome
11. Music Dub
12. Dub There
13. Government Dub
14. Rasta Dub
15. Fever Dub
16. Dub the Light
17. Problems Dub
18. I & I
19. Collie Dub
20. Dub Down Rome
In the Light/Dub
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Life Is for Living

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Life Is for Living (Ariwa, 1995)

Although Horace Andy recorded material through out the '70s and '80s, this album marked a bit of a comeback in that it came on the heels of the successful UK single "One Love," with Massive Attack.  Life Is for Living, however, doesn't live up to the quality of that song, and it certainly doesn't hold a candle to Andy's '70s and '80s material.  It's not that any track on it is truly bad, but nothing is striking.  Mad Professor's production is typically sound (yet unvaried), as he mixes dub-quality digital bass lines with horns and flutes, but Andy's melodies are relatively bland, and his vocals are at times strained.  The best cuts are probably the echoing "Dem a Fraud," along with the title track and "Zion I," which usurps the melody from Ras Michael's "Zion Land" and Dennis Brown's "Africa."   As a whole, though, the tracks meld together into a morass of mediocrity.

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Track Listing
1. Life Is For Living
2. What a Day
3. Must Be Jah
4. Nah Dis You
5. Never Deceive You
6. Rebel
7. Do Your Work
8. Armageddon
9. Zion I
10. Dem a Fraud
11. Dub Is Bad
Life Is for Living
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Skylarking

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Skylarking (Caroline, 1995)

Perhaps the best introduction to Horace Andy you can find, Skylarking (not to be confused with his Studio One album of the same name) collects songs spanning 3 decades, from some of his earliest works -- like 1970's "Fever" and the classic, horn-driven "Every Tongue Shall Tell" -- to this later hits with British group Massive Attack, including the sublime funk/dub "One Love" and the heinous remix of "Spying Glass."  The latter song is the only truly bad selection put on this "best of" compilation, as Massive Attack's heavy-handed beat dominates and detracts from Andy's delicate, vulnerable vocals.  The ethereal music of the original (also included here), on the other hand, matches the vocals perfectly.  Although many of Andy's songs contain cultural messages, his music isn't heavy or difficult to listen to because of his light voice and proficiency at crafting simple, catchy melodies.  Listening to him, you'd think that he'd be most at home singing love songs, but while he does do some of that here, he also drops some consciousness.  My two favorite tracks here -- the cool lovers romp "Natty Dread a Weh She Want" and the aforementioned "Every Tongue Shall Tell" -- illustrate his range.   Ten of the 14 tracks on Skylarking were released in the '70s, including the greats "Skylarking" (of course), "Rock to Sleep," and "Do You Love My Music."  While it would be hard to collect all of Horace Andy's greatness on one album, I can't help but miss "You Are My Angel," "See a Man's Face," "Mr. Bassie," and a couple from In the Light.   Still, this is a great collection, with intriguing liner notes that include Andy's thoughts on each song.

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Track Listing
1. Spying Glass
2. Natty Dread a Weh She Want
3. Rock to Sleep
4. One Love with Massive Attack
5. Don't Let Problems Get You Down
6. Fever
7. Children of Israel
8. Money Money
9. Girl I Love You
10. Elementary
11. Every Tongue Shall Tell
12. Skylarking
13. Do You Love My Music
14. Spying Glass with Massive Attack
Skylarking
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Roots and Branches (Ariwa, 1997)

Horace Andy collaborates with Mad Professor once again, making this album sound like a continuation of Life Is for Living.  The solid musicianship continues, but alas, so does Andy's pedestrian performance.  The main difference between the two is that while Life Is for Living doesn't have any bad songs, Roots and Branches does.  The worst is easily his remake of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" (If ever there was a tune that should not be made into a reggae song, this is it.).  Another remake -- of The Stylistics' "Betcha By Golly Wow" -- is similarly miscalculated, while "Holy Mount Zion" and "Chant Them Down" are about as generic as reggae can get.  However, the best song on either of these two albums is here: the bouncy yet sultry "Sugar My Coffee."  Also nice are the provocative title track -- illustrating the division between Caribbean peoples -- "Why Late and Regret," and Andy's effective treatment of Mad Professor's "Kunte Kinte" dub classic.  Still, it's sad to see such a star as Horace Andy put out material that is so beneath his level of talent.

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Track Listing
1. Roots and Branches
2. Kunte Kinte
3. Repatriation Is a Must
4. Holy Mount Zion
5. Betcha By Golly Wow
6. Pillow Talk
7. Sugar My Coffee
8. Papa Was a Rolling Stone
9. Rolling Down to Babylon
10. Chant Them Down
11. Why Late and Regret
Roots and Branches
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Good Vibes

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Good Vibes (Blood & Fire, 1997)

Although not necessarily designed as such, Good Vibes serves as a great companion piece to Skylarking, as it collects several stellar Horace Andy tunes from between 1975 and 1980 not on that greatest hits set.  Fans will especially appreciate the dubs/extended versions included here, though they aren't as dynamic as those on In the Light Dub.  The only songs on both Good Vibes and Skylarking are "Don't Let Problems Get You Down" and "Skylarking" itself, the "Better Version" on Good Vibes extending the pleasure of this classic.   Thankfully, the equally classic, invigorating "Mr. Bassie" is here also.   What Good Vibes does an excellent job of doing, though, is gathering what were not necessarily Andy's biggest hits or well-known songs, but that are nevertheless superb examples of his talent.  The celebratory "Reggae Rhythm," the cultural "Serious Thing" (written by John Holt), and the fun "Pure Ranking," along with "Ital Vital" and "Youths of Today," are all solid and should not be overlooked in the catalogue of Horace Andy's musical career.

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Track Listing
1. Reggae Rhythm/It's Gone Internationally
2. Serious Thing/A Serious Version
3. Skylarking/A Better Version
4. Youths of Today/Jah Youths
5. Don't Let Problems Get You Down/No Problem
6. Mr. Bassie Discomix
7. Pure Ranking Discomix
8. Good Vibes/Dub Vibes
9. Control Yourself/Version Under Control
10. Ital Vital/Ital Ites Dubwise
Good Vibes
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The Prime of Horace Andy

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The Prime of Horace Andy: 16 Massive Cuts From the 70s (Music Club, 1998)

Although more uneven than either Skylarking or Good Vibes, The Prime of Horace Andy still has some very nice -- and some might say essential -- tunes not on either.  Namely, the funky, rocking duo of "You Are My Angel" and "Nice and Easy," as well as the tranquil "Collie Weed" and the righteous "Zion Gate," are all strong cuts.  This compilation deals only with songs produced by Bunny "Striker" Lee in the '70s, thus overlooking other great collaborations with producers like Tappa Zukie, Everton DaSilva, and Coxsone Dodd (The version of "Skylarking" included here is not the original, but a re-cut version for Lee.).  This certainly limits how good the material on The Prime of can be, as it tends to rely too much on covers like Delroy Wilson's oft-recorded "Rain From the Sky" and "Riding for a Fall," Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic" (the best of the remakes), and "Better Collie," which re-works Cornell Campbell's "Gorgon."   Thus, Andy's superb writing skills don't get their just due on this album.  Nevertheless, it does fill in some holes left by both Skylarking and Good Vibes.

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Track Listing
1. Skylarking
2. Love of a Woman
3. Zion Gate
4. Just Say Who
5. Something on My Mind
6. You Are My Angel
7. Money Money
8. Rain From the Sky
9. My Guiding Star
10. Nice and Easy
11. True Love Shines Bright
12. Collie Weed
13. Ain't No Sunshine
14. Natural Mystic
15. Better Collie
16. Riding For a Fall
The Prime of Horace Andy
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From the Roots (RAS, 2004)

Horace Andy’s first studio album in four years – an eternity in reggae – From the Roots is a comeback worthy for this legendary singer.  The album’s title is appropriate, as this is a more rootsy, more somber effort than we often hear from the bubbly-voiced Andy. Take the lead-off track, for instance, “Babylon Bridge,” which proclaims, “Babylon your bridge is burning / And you can’t out the fire.”  He follows it up with “The Bingy Man,” a brooding statement of praise, and he finishes up the first three tunes with another fiery warning on “What You Gonna Do”:  

Mr. wicked man, what you gonna do / When the judgment day is up on you? / Money can’t save you. / The Devil can’t help you. / All your friends run away and left you. / You a go weep and moan, / Can’t find higher ground … The fire must burn you / You and your wicked followers too.

Andy has touched on such serious themes before, but I haven’t noticed him do it with this much solemnity, a businesslike no-nonsense approach that virtually eliminates any of the lighter love song style that he rode to success on songs like “Nice and Easy,” “You Are My Angel,” and “Love of a Woman.”   This isn’t a complaint, though, for two of the few tracks on which Andy takes a respite from the serious tone – “Gimmi What Me Want!!” and “Girl Don’t Come” (both adopting a dancehall stance) – are the weakest points on the album.  The lovers-inclined “For Me,” however, is a solid addition to Andy’s love song legacy. Even with the somber feel, Andy’s vocals still feature the vibrating falsetto style for which he’s known.  If it’s possible, his “vibrato” has gotten more prominent with age, so much so that it could prove distracting if this is your first time hearing him.  From the Roots is Andy’s third album with producer Mad Professor (after Life Is for Living and Roots and Branches) and is easily the best of the three.  Both are on top of their game here: Andy’s lyrics are provocative and his melodies tight, while Mad Professor’s music forms a rootsy landscape peppered with dub-like flourishes.  It’s some of the best work I’ve heard from the Professor and certainly worthy of a dub album all by itself.  

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Track Listing
1. Babylon Bridge
2. The Bingy Man
3. What You Gonna Do?
4. Gimmi What Me Want!!
5. Girl Don't Come
6. Vanity Vanity
7. For Me
8. Runaway
9. Dem Lie
10. Rasta Business
11. Zion the Holy Land
12. Rise Up Now
13. Don't Beat Her
14. Change Your Ways

From the Roots
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Natty Dread a Weh She Want (Trojan, 2006 [orig. released 1978]))

*GUEST REVIEW*
This material was recorded in the late seventies. Tappa Zukie is on production duties, and Horace Andy is on vocals. Could this set up fail?  Natty Dread is the reissue of a classy roots album which had a UK release in 1980 with a whole bunch of bonus tracks. The Zukie/Andy marriage works really well. Zukie gives the tracks a clean and tough production which balances the riddim track and vocals perfectly. Andy is in top form and mixes social commentary and Rasta philosophy in his own distinctive manner.  Despite the financial woes that have affected Sanctuary, it's good to see that Trojan can still release such fine releases.

- ragudave

Track Listing
1. Raggamuffin 
2. Natty Dread a Weh She Want 
3. If I Wasn't a Man 
4. Love Me Baby 
5. Treasure of Love 
6. Jah Rainbow 
7. Freedom 
8. This Must Be Real 
9. Run Babylon 
10. Brutality 
11. Easy Come, Easy Go 
12. Raggamuffin [12" Mix] 
13. Natty Dread a Weh She Want [12" Mix]
14. If I Wasn't a Man [12" Mix]
15. This Must Be Hell [12" Mix]
16. Stop Your Brutality [12" Mix]
17. Got to Be Sure [12" Mix]
18. Close to Me
Natty Dread a Weh She Want
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