Introduced to a new generation by his work with Massive Attack, Andy is a silken-voice warbler from pre-ragga Jamaica – a rare songbird a-quiver with warmth and loss, despair and ecstasy. The recent ‘Skylarking‘ compilation retraced his glory years with such mercurial studio maestros as Bunny Lee, [a]Augustus Pablo[/a] and Coxsone Dodd. But ‘Living In The Flood‘, his first all-original album in over a decade, substitutes well-respected present-day producer Clive Hunt for the errant geniuses of old and can’t help pall in comparison .
Some of it, desperate to cover as many marketing options as possible, is indeed embarrassing. The songbird constricted inside dreadlock’d holiday manoeuvres, starched-shirt businessman reggae and sickly pop sap. But thankfully Andy has not forsaken his core strength as a voice of reggae conscience. His interpretation of the timeless street-kid ballad ‘Johnny Too Bad‘ is fraught and deeply felt, he brings a sanctified longing to the last days prophesy of the title track, co-written with Joe Strummer, and the self-penned ‘Don’t Blame The Children‘ is astonishing, a cry against violence that simultaneously acknowledges its heavily marketed glamour.
Other collaborations – with Massive’s 3D on ‘Doldrums‘ – are less successful. But this is far from a failure – emerging proud and resilient, the Andy vocal is a precious resource that won’t weaken – no matter how inappropriate the setting.