It’s incredible to think that Horace Andy and producer extraordinaire Adrian Sherwood hadn’t collaborated before now, but with the release of the Midnight Rocker album and its Midnight Scorchers companion in 2022, the two legends finally came together in grand fashion. Although primarily a roots reggae artist, Horace Andy has dipped his feet into more exploratory musical forms, with his longstanding collaboration with Massive Attack being among the most prominent; as such, there’s something to be said for the tasteful restraint shown by Sherwood on Midnight Rocker, the album sticking generally to the Horace Andy’s established style and allowing the artist to shine with his words and his iconic voice.
At 71-years-old, the weight of the years is ironically more evident in the earnestness of his words than in his rather soulful delivery, with tracks like “This Must Be Hell,” “Easy Money,” “Materialist,” and “Try Love” bearing themes that are tragically as relevant now as they were when the man’s career began decades ago. That’s not to say the album is wallowing in despair, although some of the aforementioned songs do resonate with a touch of despondency, the repetitions of “Try Love” coming across less like a decree or command and more like a plea. Still, the vibrancy of his voice is something to behold, and is almost joyful in tracks like “Watch Over Them” and “Careful,” both of which almost sound whimsical with their disjointed pianos, legato synth leads, and harmonica solos. All the while, horn hooks and swells of violin appear amid the bass grooves, which are par for the course for the genre in Sherwood’s hands, but the true star of the album is the de facto title track, a faithful and striking reworking of Massive Attack’s “Safe From Harm.” Interesting factoid: Midnight Rocker was released 31 years to the day after Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, from which the song originated… coincidence?
Midnight Scorchers follows in true dub remix fashion, presenting alternative renditions of the parent album with contributions by Daddy Freddy and Lone Ranger. Those with a preference for Sherwood’s more trippy and experimental vibe may find these versions more palpable, although the songs retain their original character overall. Exceptions include “Come After Midnight,” which gives the already notable “Try Love” that extra touch of bubbly psychedelia with scratchy wah-guitar drones and added emphasis to the violins. Similarly, the more pronounced acoustic guitar and horn sections on “Easy Money” give the song a strangely Mariachi-esque vibe, while Daddy Freddy’s more boisterous and gritty style kicks things up a notch on “Safe From Harm” and especially on “More Bassy,” in which his repetitions of “turn up the bass” are simply irresistible.
Now, Midnight Rocker and Midnight Scorchers have appropriately been given the deluxe package treatment on Rockers & Scorchers, though the bonus tracks – the saccharine love song “My Guiding Star” and an instrumental mix of “Careful” – don’t add significantly; still, for the frugal buyer, it’s nice to have the option, and the compilation of the two does well to showcase the creative synergy between Horace Andy and Adrian Sherwood – poignant lyrics and masterful production… a winning combination.