Veteran reggae vocalist Horace Andy's 2022 album Midnight Rocker was an incredible showcase of his timeless talent, with the singer sounding as powerful and arresting 50 years into his career as he did early on. It was his first work with British dub producer and On-U Sound founder Adrian Sherwood, and Sherwood's approach to the instrumentals was spacious but full of subtle details, making for one of Andy's finest efforts. Midnight Scorchers (released just a few months later, also in 2022) follows in the tradition of providing a dub counterpart for important reggae records, reworking some of the songs from the album with new mixes, adding freshly recorded additions, and also providing a home for songs from the Midnight Rocker sessions that didn't make it onto the album the first time around. The results are a somewhat scattered but totally fun reimagination of the original record, with moments like the drum and bass breaks, unexpected horn solos, and blasts of ping-pong echo on "Feverish" or the throaty toasts from dancehall deejay Lone Ranger on "Dub Guidance" offering a lively and frenetic foil to the often eerie atmospheres of Midnight Rocker. The synthesizers that lingered in the background on the Massive Attack cover "Safe from Harm" are brought front and center on dub version "Midnight Scorcher," and along with forceful new vocals from Daddy Freddy, this new rendition is significantly tougher than the creeping subtlety of the original. This emphasis on once-hidden details happens throughout the album. "Sleepy's Night Cap" strips the vocals completely from "Rock to Sleep," making space for the reverb-doused violin and newly added melodica to shine. "Hell and Back" is similar, closing Midnight Scorchers with a maxed-out dub version of Midnight Rocker opener "This Must Be Hell," the new version overflowing with distorted echoes and computerized squelches, and Andy's vocal hooks only showing up briefly as part of the chaos. In a sense, this is Sherwood's album more than Andy's, experimenting wildly with his dub mixes with all the abandon of an excitable kid at recess. This willingness to go off the deep end makes Midnight Scorchers an enjoyable ride, but it's not quite the essential listen that the original album was. All the same, Horace Andy devotees, dub-heads, and reggae fans already familiar with the power of the original version will want to seek this out immediately, and bask in the vivid and uncontainable counterpoint it offers to one of the more significant reggae albums of the 2020s.
Midnight Scorchers Review
by Fred Thomas