Black Scorpio, 1985
Mind And Soul
Outta Hand Dub
Monkey And Ape
Call this here youth the mic magician. As far as I know this is General Tree's first record, showcasing his first three big hits Heart, Mind & Soul (alternately titled Mind And Soul), Monkey And Ape and Goast Rider. The latter being a typo. General Trees did not have a lot of trouble breaking into the music business in his late teens, being long acquainted with his deejay mentor Lord Sassafrass, and then once he got the musical itch it was into sessions with the Black Scorpio sound, lyrics on mic, into the studio, and in no time after that, the world was blessed with this set.
General Trees is my favourite artist and this is one of my favourite records of his as I am a big fan of the showcase format (each tune followed by its dub). Rub-a-dub dancehall stylee exploded from the start of the 80s and 1985 was the year of the digital revolution, most fully digital LPs coming out from '86 onwards. So that gives you a five-year spot of time for what I call 'organic' riddims to shine, riddims mostly or entirely done by human beings on real instruments. More often than not it's dressed up at least somewhat by the engineer with effects and alterations to the mix and all that, but that is not the same thing as a digital riddim, anyway the point I'm trying to make here is that this being the end of the organic riddims era, we get to see the last evolution of the style before the digital storm took over. Since the hardcore, heavy, ultra slow Radics style in 1980 the trend was towards lighter and lighter riddims over time and this set is a perfect example of rub-a-dub pushed as far in that direction as it ever went. There are a handful of other albums that come to mind in a similar style, Barrington Levy's "Money Move" comes to mind, but for deejaying this is THE record for easy-going, casual, low intensity rub-a-dub. On top of you have dub mixes in-between, Answer backs a total of four tracks, and the result of all of this is that the album is just smoother than smooth. Vibes to favor latte.
In my opinion General Trees is the greatest storyteller from the deejay scene, easily giving the likes of LKJ, I-Roy, Papa San, Stitchie et al a run for their money and then some with his excellent tales of the mundane, the cultural, and the absurd. One other list Trees tops is unintelligibility for those yet to be familiar with patois, and Jack Scorpio's choice to flood the mix with reverb on the vocals does not help, so for foreigners the lyrics may take some very careful listening or looking up online to enjoy to their fullest. But one thing about Trees lyrics is that you can really get a good picture of who the man is as you listen to his music. A lot of artists will chat about this or that and there can be plenty of passion and talent and crafty lyricism but it's something else to really put yourself into the music and Trees is an artist you can learn something new about with each next tune you listen to.
Well this set is a good showcase of the best of what makes Trees great in pre-digital dancehall. There's not much to be said to fault it and with 3 hit songs backed up with 3 more winners it's consistent quality from start to finish. Special mention to The Diving for bringing in another less often-mentioned topic into the reggae music spotlight, and also to Butter Bread for adapting lyrics from Lone Ranger's 1978 tune Barnabas Collins into a lover's quarrel story. Roast the bread, toast the egg, drop inna washpan and left the area like a whistle engine... Phenomenon!!
My picks: Mind And Soul, Butter Bread, Monkey And Ape
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