Among The Trees
label: edel

production: The Lounge Lizzards, Speech, Carlos Mena, Za', Dr. Luke.

guests: IX Lives, Spencer Love, Jax, Carlos Mena.
year of release: 2004
From The Start
A Lotta Things To Do
Luxury Part 1
Luxury Part 2
Honeymoon Prelude
Honeymoon Day
Wag Your Tail
Calling All Ghetto Children
In The Sun
Among The Trees
Baba Intro
Baba O Je' Is The Oldest One Part 1
Baba O Je' Is The Oldest One Part 2
I'm Ignoring You
16. Pain Thangs
17. Nighttime Demons
18. Tings Distracting
19. Lotta Things To Do (Remix)
  Luxury Part 1
As most of you probably know, Arrested Development first made a name for themselves in the early nineties. They brought a new style to the table that was very different from whatever else was out there at the time. This of course, also meant that while a lot of people loved it, others rejected them and labelled it hippie-hop or just plain wack. Now a decade later they return with a brand new album. And while these comeback/reunion albums are always accompanied by high hopes, experience has taught us not to expect too much.
The production is done by The Lounge Lizzards, Speech, Carlos Mena, Za' and Dr. Luke. It features guest appearances from IX Lives, Spencer Love, Jax, and Carlos Mena . Hmm.... just like I did, you are probably noticing a 'who?' taking shape somewhere in your mind.
Well, Speech needs no introduction, The Lounge Lizzards are a Danish production duo, Jax (who appearently is not the Jax from Binkis Recs) and IX Lives are part of the group Funktelligence, and to tell you the truth, I have no idea about the rest of them. But then again, it has always been quite a task figuring out who where actually a member of the Arrested Development as it consisted of dancers, musicians, choreographers, emcees, singers and much more. So instead of listing all past and present members, lets just say that the only really obvious change in the lineup, is that Headliner for some reason seems to be missing in action.
On the first track, not counting the obligatory Intro, "A Lotta Things To Do" Speech proves that he hasn't lost a step. He was never the greatest rapper in the world, but he did what he did well, and this shows us that he still does. A simple beat built from drums and bass, with some horns added for the hook, doesn't exactly blow our mind, but makes us forget at least some of the doubts we had, facing this album.
On "Luxury Part 1" we get something that is good. Again, a guitar sets the mood, while Speech goes: "just give me all my needs and some of my wants/ don't make me too wealthy or I might forget you Lord/ please don't make me too poor or I'll be tempted to steal/ just give me clothes oh Lord and a good old-fashioned meal". With Speech getting in the face of emcees that are only after luxury items, we are shown that content wise we are getting exactly what we would expect from an Arrested Development album.
Later, on "Luxury Part 2", we are treated to a short instrumental, again based on guitars, and this works well. And scattered throughout the album we find a couple of these track-intro's and outro's, all doing what they are supposed to perfectly.
Next up is "Honeymoon Day": we are once again greeted by a guitar-based beat, but this time with a surprising twist. Complete with snares on 1,2,3 and 4, handclaps, a sung hook, a Spencer Love that sounds a little like Jay-Z and the message that sex is best enjoyed with someone you love. And while this flavor is a little unexpected and is sure to put a frown on the face of a lot of hardcore hip hop fans, after a few listens you realize that you, much to your own surprise, actually kinda like it.
"Nighttime Demons" gets us back on track again. Guitar, bass, an organ and some strings form the stage from which Speech sings about the inner demons we all face, personified by the devil himself. There is no rapping on this, but we ain't mad at that, since Speech has developed into quite a good singer over the years. Yes, the strings do sound a little fake but it doesn't take too much away from the track. So all in all we have ourselves a very nice song. Actually, when we get near the end of the album, we find ourselves thinking that the songs that work best, with a few exceptions, are the ones that have Speech singing and not rapping.
It's not all good though. If you didn't like them back then, this album will do nothing to change that. Also, you might argue that these guys and guyettes lack some of the relevance they had as a counterpart to the gangster rap that was popular at the time. But that would only be half the truth since that rap - although in a different form - still floods the airwaves. Another thing is that some of the tracks, while not really bad, somehow fail to really get off the ground. And finally, despite the fact that there are some very nice tracks on this album, there aren't any tracks that really stand out neither.
So if you are looking for an album full of "Fishing For Religion"s, "People Everyday"s or even "Mr Wendal"s, you wont find it here. What brings us back to our earlier discussion of hopes versus expectations. Cause while this album is not the album we all had hoped for, this bunch of everyday-people still put together an album that is worthwhile and, at least to me, better than expected.
review: Jonezz
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