'Glory Box' was Portishead's debut Top 20 single in January 1995... They mix "Nineties hip hop beats, imaginary 60s film soundtracks with the scorching blues vocals of Beth Gibbons" to produce a wonderously new and original sound.It's not totally clear where that part in inverted commas comes from, no. Some people would call this music trip-hop, although anyone involved in actually making it seems to bristle (no pun intended) at the suggestion, perhaps because it sounds a bit too druggy. It seems only fair to sequence this track next to the Massive Attack song since they seem almost inseparably bonded; when I went on YouTube to look up the 'Protection' video, 'Glory Box' was one of the "related" suggestions, and on the chart dated 21 January 1995 they were in consecutive positions: Massive were new in at 14 as Portishead fell 13-15. Tricky provides an odd link between the two as well; he infamously recycled some lyrics he contributed to the Protection album on his own solo material, whilst his own 1995 hit 'Hell Is Round The Corner' uses the very same Isaac Hayes sample (from the deliciously moody 'Ike's Rap II') that this song is based on. You could even claim that there are references to gender identity in both songs, as Gibbons sings "I just want to be a woman" - whilst of course that lyric is open to multiple interpretations, it is notable that the non-performance parts of the video are all played by actors in drag.
Whatever the song is actually about - and I'm not sure they really want us to know - it's a beautiful piece of work. Even knowing how much is derived from the Isaac Hayes arrangement, it's the juxtaposition of that and the superb vocals (which are of course very different from his deep rumble) that really makes it, along with the switch to the darker-sounding section at the end. Even the rather odd fade in the middle of a repeated verse seems like it's consciously mysterious; the album version, though longer than the radio edit featured here, has exactly the same fade so it's obviously not just a mistake. In fact the whole track is so good you can see why the group struggled to follow it.
Also appearing on: Now 31
Available on: Dummy