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50 greatest dance albums of all time (mixmag)

#1 MASSIVE ATTACK 'Blue Lines'

Blue Lines wasn't a soul album. It wasn't a hip hop album. It wasn't dub or trip hop or anything else, it was all of these and so much more and it melted its way across the musical consciousness of this nation like nothing before. Though Massive Attack, a long term posse of Bristol stoners, DJs, graffiti artists and club reprobates, had no idea of the impact it would cause. "It was just wh ere we were at at the time." says Delj, aka 3D. now. "We just got into the studio with Cameron Mackintosh, [Neneh Cherry's husband and manager] and Johnny [Dollar. Cherry's producer] and endeavoured to finish the record. Because we'd never finished a project before." 'Daydreaming' was the first single and we'd never heard anything like it. It loped over a stoned hip hop beat. wheezing like old dub reggae while Delj and Tricky - or Tricky Kid as he was then - rapped, talked, dreamed their way on top and Shara Nelson breathed the occasional vocal loveliness. 'Unfinished Sympathy' was the single everyone remembered; a hot, emotional vocal performance from Shara and a 40 piece orchestra. A timeless classic. "It started out as a pretty weak track." Delj recalls, "and we dismembered it and started again. It was never meant to be this immense track. There was a string piece that Johnny played on the keyboard and it became obvious that it would sound better with an orchestra." through scratching noises and a rolling bass and Studio One veteran Horace Andy and a didgeridoo turned 'Hymn Of The Big Wheel' into a paen to environmentalism and an epic, moving finale. But it was more than just that. 'Blue Lines' was a uniquely British album, a cut-up of styles and moods; hip hop given a white, urban edge, a subterranean blues that, years later, would be named trip hop but could never be summed up so easily. 'Blue Lines' was the sum of 20 years of black music and a collective mispent youth spent DJing, hanging out, and getting lost in records as diverse as early hip hop and Pink Floyd. It was also dance music's first proper, realised album and everyone's standards were suddenly so much higher.
The rap tracks too shone out. 'Blue Lines' and 'Five Man Army' and the one line that summed up Massive Attack's history: "house parties, hip hop, and smoking drugs." Horace Andy guested on the sublime, simplistic 'One Love'. Shara Nelson powered 'Safe From Harm'

Dom PhiIlips