Personnel: Owen Stewart (piano, organ); Junior Delahaye (drums).
By modern standards, a six-song set barely qualifies as a single, never mind as a full-length album, but with each stellar song featured in its extended form, Dance Hall Style doesn't merely pass muster as an album, but as a masterpiece. As with all the Wackies sets from this era, it's the riddims and arrangements that inspire absolute awe, but as Horace Andy gives each of them his all, this album is as notable for his performances as for Lloyd Barnes' sensational production and his studio band's phenomenal musicianship. Incidentally, Andy himself provided bass, rhythm, and lead guitar on the album. Not all the songs, however, are new -- two revisit a pair of the star's earlier hits. Andy cut "Lonely Woman" for Derrick Harriott back in 1972, and for it, Barnes created a sizzling new riddim that bristles with militancy, while still echoing back to the days of early reggae, before flashing over into pure roots rockers in the tense dub section. "Money Money" was cut for Bunny Lee a few years later in rockers style, and so Barnes instead takes it immediately into deep dread territory, filling the atmosphere with absolute menace. "Cuss Cuss" was also an old hit, not for Andy, though, but for Lloyd Robinson back in 1969. Here Barnes creates a riddim that is pure malevolence, with a stark atmosphere that is dread-filled but with an arrangement that sizzles with the blues. Andy's own powerful "Stop the Fuss," a new number, tackles the same topic, but adds a strong unity message that Robinson's "Cuss Cuss" decidedly lacked. That's a theme the singer revisits on the emotive "Let's Live in Love," with Andy's delicate delivery beautifully intertwining with the equally delicate and intricate roots reggae riddim. Both were fabulous numbers, but "Spying Glass" was the stunner of the set. Its haunting melody sweeps out of the organ, while the propulsive rhythm courses across the grooves and Andy's vibrato-laced vocals buffet about overhead. The backing has a definite bounce, but Barnes' production plays up the song's haunted quality, which perfectly dovetails with Andy's claustrophobic lyrics. Years later, Massive Attack would version the song, with Andy himself providing the vocals, on their 1994 Protection album. It's amazing what Barnes and his band could do with a mere six songs, and just as impressive what Andy himself brought to the numbers old and new. A phenomenal set by any standard. ~ Jo-Ann Greene