While C+C Music Factory was doing their thing in New York, Bristol’s Massive Attack was inventing a sound that, though labeled “trip-hop” years later, was pure, unadulterated soul, a culmination of American black music filtered through European dance culture. Blue Lines is an impeccable amalgam of house, R&B, and hip-hop, transplanting blues into slick, electronic pop packages like the classic “Unfinished Sympathy” (singer Shara Nelson laments: “Like a soul without a mind/In a body without a heart/I’m missing every part”). Reggae legend Horace Andy lends his skills to the uplifting anthem “Hymn of the Big Wheel” and the dub-infused “Five Man Army” yet Massive Attack can certainly hold their own. The sublime “Daydreaming” is an ode to the beat, 3D-Del Naja’s cool rhymes interwoven with those of a then-unknown Tricky Kid. The album’s title track nimbly alternates between samples of “Slippin’ in the Back Door” and James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turn It Loose,” creating a rich, recycled tapestry on which the group lays its tight rhythms and live bass guitar. While resistant to categorization, Massive Attack are the undisputed godfathers of trip-hop and Blue Lines remains the genre’s most influential masterpiece.
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