An Illustrated Review of Horace Andy’s “Midnight Rocker”

Carl Antonowicz is a Texas-reared, Tulsa-based illustrator, performer, writer, director, cartoonist, and calligrapher. Support his work on Patreon!

At 72 years old, Horace Andy’s legendary status grows. The Jamaican singer has never sounded better than on Midnight Rocker. It’s remarkable. Partnering with producer Adrian Sherwood, Andy finds fertile ground to carve out potent messages and leave a mark that will ripple outward. Midnight Rocker lets Andy shine. Sherwood keeps the production compelling yet subdued, knowing where the real magic dust comes from.

“There’s no such thing as easy money,” Andy barks over rocksteady drips and low-end power. His voice is so engaging and distinct that the sharp edge around it slices through without notice. It’s pointed and still somehow saccharine. Claustrophobic bass forms plow through every strand of Midnight Rocker. Opener, and album standout, “This Must Be Hell” floats on funereal horn ecstasies, imbued with emotive piano and guitar arrangements. Andy’s voice is slick with the desolation and pain weighing us all down. He bellows, “Lord this must be hell because there’s no peace down here right now.” It cuts deep. 

A timeless sparkle is peppered through Andy’s unmistakable timbre in bright moments like “Materialist” and “Try Love.” Hammond organ leads zip through every avenue of the former. Their patterns are familiar, but Sherwood masterfully articulates hidden melodies in their sonic wash as Andy sings about the way money and things shouldn’t be the goal. Propulsive rhythms burrow deep into the earth, fishing out sub-bass bounce to hold up the stinging words. Desolate strings draw lazy circles in the dust on the incredible “Try Love,” pushed forward by crisp beats and an ancient choir giving Andy energy.

A reimagined version of one of his classics, “Mr. Bassie,” closes Midnight Rocker. The original is timeless, but Sherwood brings a new flavor to this version that gives Andy even more space to fill. It carries the spirit of the old version into the future, into a place where his singing lives forever. Horace Andy is one of the greatest singers in reggae history and Midnight Rocker shows that not only has he not lost an ounce of that silky trademark, but he’s also soaring higher than ever. One of my favorite albums of 2022.

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