Blue Lines

Blue Lines
Studio album by Massive Attack
Released 8 April 1991 (1991-04-08)
Recorded 1990–91 at Coach House Studios, Bristol and Eastcote Studio, London
Genre Trip hop
Length 45:02
Label Wild Bunch/Virgin
Producer Massive Attack, Jonny Dollar and Booga Bear (executive producer) [1]
Massive Attack chronology
Blue Lines
Singles from Blue Lines
  1. "Daydreaming"
    Released: 15 October 1990
  2. "Unfinished Sympathy"
    Released: 11 February 1991
  3. "Safe from Harm"
    Released: 27 May 1991
  4. "Hymn of the Big Wheel"/"Be Thankful for What You've Got (a.k.a. Massive Attack E.P.)"
    Released: 10 February 1992

Blue Lines is the debut album by English trip hop group Massive Attack, released on their Wild Bunch label through Virgin Records on 8 April 1991.[2] A remastered version of the album was released on 19 November 2012.[3]


"We worked on Blue Lines for about eight months, with breaks for Christmas and the World Cup," said 3D, "but we started out with a selection of ideas that were up to seven years old. Songs like 'Safe from Harm' and 'Lately' had been around for a while, from when we were The Wild Bunch, or from our time on the sound systems in Bristol. But the more we worked on them, the more we began to conceive new ideas too – like, 'Five Man Army' came together as a jam."[4]

Blue Lines is generally considered the first trip hop album,[5] although the term was not widely used before 1994.

The album reached No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart; sales were limited elsewhere. A fusion of electronic music, hip hop, dub, '70s soul and reggae, it established Massive Attack as one of the most innovative British bands of the 1990s and the founder of trip hop's Bristol Sound.[6]

Music critic Simon Reynolds stated that the album also marked a change in electronic/dance music, "a shift toward a more interior, meditational sound. The songs on Blue Lines run at 'spliff' tempos – from a mellow, moonwalking 90 beats per minute ...down to a positively torpid 67 bpm."[7]

The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Pink Floyd, Public Image Ltd., Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes.[7]


Unfinished Sympathy
An excerpt from "Unfinished Sympathy", the most successful single from Blue Lines.

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Blue Lines featured breakbeats, sampling, and rapping on a number of tracks, but the design of the album differed from traditional hip hop. Massive Attack approached the American-born hip hop movement from an underground British perspective and also incorporated live instruments into the mixes. It features the vocals of Shara Nelson and Horace Andy, along with the rapping of Tricky Kid. Blue Lines proved to be popular in the club scene, as well as on college radio stations.[8]

The font used on the cover of the album is Helvetica Black Oblique. Del Naja has acknowledged the influence of the inflammable material logo used on the cover of Stiff Little Fingers' album Inflammable Material.

Daddy G said about the making of the album:

We were lazy Bristol twats. It was Neneh Cherry who kicked our arses and got us in the studio. We recorded a lot at her house, in her baby's room. It stank for months and eventually we found a dirty nappy behind a radiator. I was still DJing, but what we were trying to do was create dance music for the head, rather than the feet. I think it's our freshest album, we were at our strongest then.[9]


Professional ratings
Review scores
The A.V. ClubA[11]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[12]
The Guardian[13]
Pitchfork Media9.0/10[15]
Rolling Stone[17]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[18]

In a contemporary review of Blue Lines, Dele Fadele of NME hailed the album as "the sleekest, deadliest, most urbane, most confounding LP 1991 has yet seen", writing that Massive Attack "put current changes on the dancefloor in perspective and map out blueprints for what must surely come next" and that "after Blue Lines the boundaries separating soul, funk, reggae, house, classical, hip-hop and space-rock will be blurred forever."[14] Select's Andrew Harrison similarly complimented the album's diverse mix of styles and called it "a record to transcend every boundary".[19] Robert Christgau was more reserved in his praise, giving the album a three-star honorable mention, which indicated "an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure". He cited "One Love" and "Be Thankful for What You've Got" as highlights and jokingly wrote, "from soul ii skank, those postindustrial blues got them down".[20]

According to Acclaimed Music, a site which uses statistics to numerically represent critical reception, Blue Lines is the 37th best-received album of all time, and third best-received of the 1990s.[21] In 1997, Blue Lines was named the 21st greatest album of all time in a "Music of the Millennium" poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. The following year, Q readers placed it at number 58 in its list of the "100 Greatest Albums Ever", and in 2000, the album was voted at number 9 in the magazine's poll of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever". In 2003, the album was ranked number 395 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Pitchfork Media ranked it at number 85 in its list of "The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s".[22] The track "Unfinished Sympathy" has also been singled out for praise, earning a BRIT Award nomination for the best single of 1991 and being hailed by BBC Music as "one of the most moving pieces of dance music ever, able to soften hearts and excite minds just as keenly as a ballad by Bacharach or a melody by McCartney."[23]

Stuart Bailie of BBC Northern Ireland stated that, "It was soul music. But it had bold, symphonic arrangements. It featured samples of the Mahavishnu Orchestra going 'hey, hey hey, hey.' It had funky breaks and an emotional power that was hard to figure. It sounded anxious and lost. But there was a grandeur in the music also. People who came across the record became obsessed, spinning it endlessly."[24] "This album is chill music for me – music to write to," said author Chuck Palahniuk. "I'm writing short stories to this right now. I put this on repeat, something Andy Warhol used to do. He'd put singles on and play them unendingly to the point where the language would break down, and he would paint to that trance-like repetition."[25]

Track listing

All tracks written by in part by Massive Attack (Marshall, Vowles, Del Naja). 

No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Safe from Harm" (featuring. Shara Nelson)Massive Attack, Nelson, Cobham 5:18
2. "One Love" (featuring. Horace Andy)Massive Attack, Andy, Williams, McLaughlin, Wolinski 4:48
3. "Blue Lines"  Massive Attack, Thaws, Max Bennett, Brown, Carlton, Guerin, Sample, Scott 4:21
4. "Be Thankful for What You've Got" (featuring. Tony Bryan)DeVaughn 4:09
5. "Five Man Army" (featuring. Horace Andy)Massive Attack, Thaws, Williams 6:04
6. "Unfinished Sympathy" (featuring. Shara Nelson)Massive Attack, Nelson, J. Sharp 5:08
7. "Daydreaming" (featuring. Shara Nelson)Massive Attack, Nelson, Thaws, Badarou 4:14
8. "Lately" (featuring. Shara Nelson)Massive Attack, Nelson, Redmond, Brownlee, J. Simon, F. E. Simon 4:26
9. "Hymn of the Big Wheel" (featuring. Horace Andy & Neneh Cherry)Massive Attack, Andy, Cherry 6:36
Sample Credits


  1. "Safe from Harm"
    • Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  2. "One Love"
    • Horace Andy: vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol
    • Mixed at Konk Studios, London
    • Mix engineer: Bryan Chuck New
  3. "Blue Lines"
    • Massive Attack and Adrian "Tricky" Thaws: vocals
    • Recorded at Eastcote Studios, London
    • Engineer: Kevin Petri
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
    • Bass guitar: Paul Johnson
  4. "Be Thankful for What You've Got"
    • Tony Bryan: vocals
    • Recorded at Cherry Bear Studios
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  5. "Five Man Army"
    • Massive Attack, Horace Andy, Adrian "Tricky" Thaws, and Claude "Willie Wee" Williams: vocals
    • Recorded at Eastcote Studios, London
    • Engineer: Kevin Petri
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  6. "Unfinished Sympathy"
    • Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol, and Abbey Road Studios, London
    • Strings engineer: Hayden
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
    • Strings arranged and conducted by Wil Malone
    • Leader: Gavyn Wright
  7. "Daydreaming"
    • Massive Attack, Adrian "Tricky" Thaws, and Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded at Cherry Bear Studios
    • Mixed at Konk Studios and Roundhouse, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom
  8. "Lately"
    • Shara Nelson: vocals
    • Recorded and mixed at Coach House, Bristol
    • Mix engineer: Bryan Chuck New
  9. "Hymn of the Big Wheel"
    • Horace Andy: vocals
    • Neneh Cherry: backing vocals, additional arrangement
    • Michael "Mikey General" Taylor : backing vocals
    • Recorded at Coach House, Bristol, and Hot Nights, London
    • Mixed at Matrix, London
    • Mix engineer: Jeremy Allom

Chart positions

Chart (1991) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[26] 69
UK Albums Chart[27] 13
Title Chart (1991–92) Peak
"Unfinished Sympathy" UK Singles Chart 13[27]
"Safe from Harm" UK Singles Chart 25[27]
"Safe from Harm" US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 28[28]
"Safe from Harm" US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play 35[28]
"Safe from Harm" US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 32[28]
Massive Attack E.P. UK Singles Chart 27[27]


  2. Arundel, Jim (30 March 1991). "Review: Massive – Blue Lines". Sounds. London, England: Spolight Publications: 34.
  3. "Massive Attack announce specially remastered Blue Lines reissue". FACT Magazine. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  4. Select, circa December 1991/January 2002, the issue in which Blue Lines was rated the fifth best album of 1991
  5. Guy Garcia (25 October 1998). "Trip-Hop Reinvents Itself to Take on the World". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  6. Schwartz, Mark. "Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National." In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 361-72. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
  7. 1 2 Reynolds, Simon (1998). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 0-415-92373-5.
  8. Schwartz, Mark. "Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National."
  9. Ben Thompson (20 June 2004). "Blue Lines, Massive Attack". The Observer. London. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  10. Bush, John. "Blue Lines – Massive Attack". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  11. Gallucci, Michael (20 November 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  12. Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8.
  13. Petridis, Alexis (6 December 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines (remastered) – review". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  14. 1 2 Fadele, Dele (4 June 1991). "Massive – Blue Lines". NME. Archived from the original on 11 October 2000. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  15. Raymer, Miles (30 November 2012). "Massive Attack: Blue Lines". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  16. "Massive: Blue Lines". Q (57). June 1991.
  17. "Massive Attack – Blue Lines CD". CD Universe. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  18. Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-743-20169-8.
  19. 1 2 Harrison, Andrew (April 1991). "Massive: Blue Lines". Select (10): 80.
  20. Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan Publishers. pp. xvi, 196. ISBN 0312245602.
  21. "Massive Attack". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  22. "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media. 17 November 2003. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  23. "Unfinished Sympathy". BBC Music. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  24. BBC Northern Ireland – Blue Lines Archived 13 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. Blender 2003 (issue date unknown)
  26. Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  27. 1 2 3 4 "Massive Attack UK Chart History". Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  28. 1 2 3 "Allmusic: Massive Attack - Charts & Awards". Retrieved 11 October 2013.
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