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Classic reggae reissues like The Congos’ Heart of the Congos and this best-of Horace Andy collection serve to wrestle the genre away from the frat boys and return it to the rude boys. Skylarking is the first release on Massive Attack’s new label, and “One Love,” the group’s 1990 collaboration with Andy, is here, as is its version of “Spying Glass,” the 1981 track that leads off the disc. As a self-congratulatory gesture for keeping Andy’s profile high, the appearance of these songs is fine. But Andy has recorded 114 tunes, only 14 of which appear on Skylarking, so a couple more Studio One haunters from the early ’70s or some more of the explosive tracks he did with Bunny “Striker” Lee in the mid-’70s would be more appropriate. Still, as selecter, Massive Attack rocks the dance hall. In the buoyantly skipping “Fever” (from 1970), the moody original version of “Spying Glass,” and the joyously lazy title track (Andy’s biggest hit for Studio One, from 1972), it’s Andy’s distinct voice that sets him apart from fellow dreads. His sonorous tenor is a choppy, vibrato-laden balm to the ears, with a sound reminiscent of Smokey Robinson’sif the Motown man had choked on every word. Andy’s delivery is so intoxicating that even when he sings about “One Love” (to his now-ex-wife, not Jah), despite his having 16 children by almost as many women, you still believe him. Him the original rude
boy, indeed.Christopher Porter