Wicked Dem A Burn: The Best of Horace Andy


The Two Primes of Horace Andy

            Not many musicians get the opportunity to directly influence one generation, let alone two.  Most are satisfied if they give props to their influences and make some money. However, Horace Andy has directly affected two generations of artists, in two separate genres of music.  On the one hand, as a member of Massive Attack, his vocals and the band’s cutting edge trance-dance-electronica sound brought an edge of tradition to a sound that truly broke new ground in popular music.  Through the 90s, the group garnered many popular and prominent singles and albums, aided in no small part by the confident, soulful, high tenor of Horace Andy.

            Twenty years before that, however, Horace Andy earned his stripes and learned his trade as one of the foremost singers in his native Jamaica. That distinctive high tenor became a touchstone for dozens of rocksteady singers who followed in his wake, especially as it recalled the similar vocal qualities of Island favorites like the Impressions’ Curtis Mayfield and The Dramatics’ Wee-Gee Howard.

            “We used to sing their songs on the corner every evening,” Andy recalled during a chat on –The Raft.  “American songs do have a lot of influence on Jamaican artists.”

            Horace Andy was born Horace Hinds in Kingston in 1951. By 1967, he had graduated from the street corner and started hanging around Kingston’s myriad recording studios, cutting a few singles before the turn of the decade, but nothing that really went anywhere.  By 1970, he had fallen under sway of Studio One and its legendary proprietor Clement “Coxsone” Dodd.


            “I was the only producer out there building the artists up from the ground floor,” Dodd explains.  “The other producers wanted somebody who was strong already and in the limelight.  I would take a no-name guy by just auditioning and hearing his voice.  I understood what it took to put it together.  I took a little time.  The more artists hear themselves playing back, the more confident they become.  And when they sing a certain way, and it sounds good, they know to stick to that method.  Actual rehearsing and regular recording of the artists and they'll back themselves.  It just came naturally.”


            Among some of Dodd’s early successes were groups like the Skatalites and the dozens of artists they backed up during sessions in Studio One from the late 50s through the 70s.  These included the first hits for Neville Livingstone, Winston MacIntosh and Robert Marley – The Wailers. By the early 70s, anyone who was anyone sang for Studio One.


            “It was wicked hanging out in Studio One,” Andy told –The Raft.  “I would go every morning at 9 AM and I would leave at 10 or 11 PM in the evening.  The reason why it was so amazing is because all the big names were there, like Leroy Sibbles, Alton Ellis, John Hold, Larry Marshall, Miss Enid, Bagga, Pablo, all these famous people I learned from.”


            While working for Coxsone Dodd would not make an artist rich (at least right away), it practically guaranteed exposure. Dodd believed in talent – not necessarily paying his talent, but in the raw commodity that they brought to the studio. Dodd saw this in young Hinds.


            The first thing Dodd did was change Hinds’ name to Horace Andy, after recent Studio One defector Bob Andy.  Bob Andy had had such huge hits for Studio One as “Young, Gifted and Black” with Marcia Griffiths, "My Time", "Going Home" and "Too Experienced."  Dodd claims to have given Horace the name because they had a common affinity for songwriting. More likely, he hoped the success would follow the name (Bob Andy’s real name, changed by Dodd, was Keith Anderson).


            Dodd and Horace’s patience soon paid off with a tune that has become a reggae standard, “Skylarking” (not, by the way, the version on this CD, but more on that anon).  A slew of Jamaican hit singles and albums followed for Studio One before Andy felt the time was ripe to venture out for himself. At one time or another, he has worked for pretty much every top reggae producer in Jamaica, England and the United States.  However, his most notable work of the period covered by this album was with Bunny Lee.


            “Bunny Lee irie,” Andy said on the raft.  “Always happy.  Everyone loves him because he let the musicians have their way.  That is why he gets good music.”


            By the time Andy and Lee hooked up, both were established stars in what they did.  Lee had produced such monster reggae hits as Eric Donaldson’s “Cherry Oh Baby” and Slim Smith’s “Everyone Needs Love.”  Lee’s first move – A classic first move on the Jamaican music scene – was to redo Andy’s early hits.  This sent not only the new version of “Skylarking” on this recording up the charts but a Dodd’s re-released original as well.


            This material catches Andy at the top of his game.  His music from this period was so strong and diverse that it defied category:  He did lovers rock like “Love Of a Woman”, conscious tunes like the magnificent “Money, Money” and Rastafarian reveries like  “Collie Weed” and his cover of Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic.” He could be as commercial as his remarkable covers of middling American pop tunes like Lobo’s “Love You to Want Me” and soul standards like “Sea Of Love” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” 


            Shortly after he recorded this material, he moved from Kingston to Connecticut.  He continued doing sessions, both his own and for artists like Neneh Cherry.  He hooked up with Massive Attack while he was in England in the early 90s.  Now he lives in Bristol.


            Through his peripatetic wandering, one thing remained consistent: Horace Andy has a voice for the ages.


            “I saw Tom Jones on the TV,” Andy told Rob Wood.  “Tom Jones said, ‘I’ll never stop singing, as long as my voice keeps going.’  I just quote that one…Yes, I will never stop as long as the voice go and I have the energy.  I will continue.”


Song titles

Love Of A Woman
Zion Gate
Just Say Who
Something On My Mind
You Are My Angel
Money Money
Rain From The Sky
My Guiding Star
Bless You
Don't Try To Use Me
Nice and Easy
True Love Shines
Collie Weed
Ain't No Sunshine
Sea Of Love
Love You To Want Me
Natural Mystic
Better Collie
Riding For A Fall