Horace Andy’s ‘Dance Hall Style’ at 40: A deep new reissue connects Kingston, Brooklyn and Bristol

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Randall Roberts
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A new reissue of Horace Andy’s Wackie’s classic ‘Dance Hall Style’ has arrived and is available now in the shop.

In 1982, Horace Andy carried his sweet, sweet falsetto to Brooklyn to work with Lloyd “Bullwackie” Barnes. Bullwackie had grown up in Trenchtown alongside friends including Alton Ellis, Peter Tosh, and Ken Boothe but had relocated to Brooklyn in 1967 with his family. Not long after, he built a sound system and started throwing parties. Like his music-producing friends back in Kingston, Bullwackie constructed a brilliantly rickety studio in a Brooklyn room.

For his part, the Kingston-born Andy had released his first single, “This is a Black Man’s Country,” the year Bullwackie had moved to Brooklyn. Before he hit 20 Andy had drawn Studio One producer Coxonne Dodd’s attention, who recruited him to play in a duo and gave the singer born Horace Hinds the name “Horace Andy” so as to distinguish him from his cousin, rocksteady and reggae singer Justin Hinds.

Fast-forward fifteen years. Andy had struck gold with the worldwide smash “Skylarking” and established himself as a go-to vocalist. Possessing a gentle falsetto that seemed to caress eardrums on their way into the psyche, his tone was — and remains — immediately identifiable.

In the late 1970s, Andy and his wife relocated to Connecticut and a few years later he and Bullwackie converged at the latter’s studio to make what would become Dancehall Style.

The producer had formed a label and studio called Wackies, noted the respected reggae writer David Katz in a brilliant 2013 piece for Red Bull Music Academy on Bullwackie. “His Wackies record label never achieved mainstream success at home, but the suitably stoned, yet tension-laden sound he crafted with local dreads and visiting Jamaican legends proved highly influential overseas, where the languorous and overwrought rhythms ultimately stoked the creative fires of acts like Rhythm & Sound and Massive Attack.”

Once in the studio, Andy and Bullwackie weren’t in any rush. Songs that a few years prior would have faded out at the four-minute mark stretched out, reggae-disco style, to six-plus minutes, as if to ensure that the rhythm and vocal melody gets girded into your memory bank. Except the sound wasn’t reggae disco; it was slower, deeper, and much, much darker. Synths traced almost goth-like counter-melodies to Andy’s liquid voice.

“Spying Glass,” for example, tackles racism and intolerance.

You live in the city
You stay by yourself
You evade all wickedness
Still some people they brand you yeah
Just because you are rasta
You move to the country
You live in the hills
You evade all company
When you check them in the new spying glass
They want to know all your business.

A decade later, the Bristol music scene that produced Tricky, Massive Attack, and Portishead were drawing inspiration from Dance Hall Style tracks. Soon Andy was on a plane to England, where he started a decades long Massive Attack collaboration with an updated version of “Spying Glass.”

For another Dance Hall Style standout, “Cuss Cuss,” Wackie creates a burning rhythm that entangles piano, organ, and synth into a three-way dance and deep basslines guide a 10-ton rhythm. The song is one Andy recorded with a number of different producers over the years, but it’s at its most subterranean in Bullwackie version.

This year Wackie’s reissued Dance Hall Style, and did so from a new stamper generated from an original mother that Wackie provided to the manufacturer.

Released in a reverse-board jacket, the new reissue is an essential part of the In Sheep’s Clothing collection, and available now through our shop: https://insheepsclothinghifi.com/product/horace-andy-dance-hall-style-lp/

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