Fri, January 26, 2001
Jacquelyn Pope - Sonicnet
Gil Scott-Heron, proto-rapper and pianist, prime influence on hip-hop, creates a synthesis of soul, jazz and poetry that is quite unlike anything else around. Invigorated by righteous anger and biting wit, his recordings have lost none of their vividness or urgency over the 30 years he's been making them. The first releases in a planned series of reissues from TVT offer proof (if any was needed) of his enduring power- and how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
It's Your World, originally released in November 1976, was recorded (mostly) live in Boston, smack dab in the middle of that year's Bicentennial hoopla (four songs were recorded in New York), and features Scott-Heron's regular backing ensemble, the Midnight Band: longtime collaborator Brian Jackson (piano and synthesizer), Victor Brown (vocals), Danny Bowens (bass), Bilal Sunni-Ali (tenor sax, flute), Delbert Taylor (trumpet), Barnett Williams (congas), Reggie Brisbane (drums, percussion) and Tony Duncanson (congas, bongos, and timbales). The album is organized around five spans of a day's time: its songs are divided into groups called "Just Before Sundown," "Nightfall," "Late Evening" and "Midnight and Morning," and the album's moods progress according to these themes. "Sundown" features the upbeat, Jackson-penned title track and the bluesy "Possum Slim," which features a growling Scott-Heron ("The brother took all he could/ His story don't prove that he ain't no good") over Sunni-Ali's sinuous sax and Jackson's smoky synthesizer. "Nightfall"'s "New York City" is more subdued, the ragged edges of Heron's voice infusing it with tenderness: "It's home to both tramp and artist/ And dreamers from everywhere/ But most of all kindhearted people/ Whose stories ain't on the air."
The "Late Evening" tracks begin with "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," an extended jam from a junkie's point of view ("Home is where the needle marks/ Tried to heal my broken heart"). "Bicentennial Blues" , a powerful spoken-word performance, winds downs the "Late Evening" section, reminding us that "The blues remembers everything the country forgot." "Midnight" opens with "The Bottle" , a late-'70s R&B hit that features percussionists Williams and Duncanson. Their extended jam shakes out into the fresh, hopeful sound of the Brown-sung final track, "Sharing."
Also just released is The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron, a fine collection of some of his most notable spoken-word performances, including 1973's "H2O Gate Blues" ("America! The international Jekyll and Hyde") and '74's "We Beg Your Pardon (Pardon Our Analysis)," a searing indictment of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon ("We beg your pardon/Because the pardon you gave/ Was not yours to give"). "The Ghetto Code (Dot Dot Dit Dot Dit Dot Dot Dash)," a blisteringly funny 1978 riff on conspiracy and resistance, uses the Morse code motif to great rhythmic effect, as it stays in your head, circulating as easily as any catchy musical refrain. And 1990's "Space Shuttle," directed at the waste of the space program and originally a U.K.-only release, shows that Gil Scott-Heron's moral outcries remain as riveting, and as on-target, as ever.
Article retrieved from - http://excite.vh1.com/music/mtv_editorials/1438534
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