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R&B - Released February 8, 2010 | XL Recordings

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Stereophile: Record To Die For - Sélectionné par Ecoutez Voir
I’m New Here is a shock. It’s a wallop filled with big nasty beats, a wide range of sonic atmospheres, and more -- sometimes unintentional -- autobiographical intimacy than we’ve heard from Gil Scott-Heron than ever before. Produced by XL Recordings head Richard Russell, I’m New Here is his first record in 16 years. It is a scant 28 minutes and doesn’t need to be a second longer. It's unlike anything he’s previously recorded, though there is metaphoric precedence in his earliest, largely spoken word albums. Its production pushes forcefully at the margins, and Scott-Heron embraces it without a hint of nostalgia. It opens with “On Coming from a Broken Home,” the first of a two-part poem that bookends the album. Over a piano and a sampled string loop (from Kanye West's “Flashing Lights”), he reflects on his upbringing filled with strong female figures and an unconventional structure, with a startling epiphany at the end. It segues immediately into a slamming read of Robert Johnson's “Me and the Devil,” with enormous hip-hop drums, sampled strings, and sonic effects that create a sense of brooding menace as Scott-Heron wails with bracing rawness to hair-raising effect. Just as quickly, the album shifts dramatically. A lone acoustic guitar introduces the Bill Callahan-penned title track. Scott-Heron recites the verse but sings its refrain: “No matter how far wrong gone/You can always turn around.” It feels like he’s speaking into a mirror with a dawning awareness of who -- and what -- he's become as he accepts it. He now owns this song. A Burial-like wall of effects over a cello loop introduces “Your Soul and Mine.” It’s Scott-Heron's unflinching look at death, and the way it feeds, yet ends with a warrior’s words: "So if you see the vulture coming/Flying circles in your mind/Remember there is no escaping/For he will follow close behind/Only promise me a battle/For your soul, and mine." It’s not all darkness, however. A reading of Bobby "Blue" Bland's “I’ll Take Care of You,” features Gil's soulful piano with a small string section. He sings it tenderly, in a now-raspier but still deeply expressive voice; it stands out sonically, but belongs here because of its intimacy. “New York Is Killing Me,” based on a John Lee Hooker blues, has been reinvented with almost entirely new lyrics and arrangement. Singers from the Harlem Gospel Choir; handclaps, bass drums, cymbals, synths, and guitar are treated spatially by Russell; Scott-Heron's lead vocal roars from the center. “The Crutch” is a burning atmospheric poem about a junkie’s life. Scott-Heron doesn’t distance himself from his subject; it isn’t mere observation, but an empathic elegy, and Russell’s suffocatingly close production brings it home. Forty years after his debut, I’m New Here contains the artful immediacy that distinguishes Scott-Heron’s best art. The modern production adds immeasurably to that quality, underscores his continued relevance in reflecting the times, and opens his work to a new generation of listeners while giving older ones a righteous jolt. [XL is also offering a limited editon of 300 copies with seven bonus tracks. These include unreleased material from the album's sessions, as well as new versions of "Winter In America" and "Home Is Where The Hatred Is."] ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released November 26, 2012 | Ace Records

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Gil Scott-Heron's first three albums for Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label have been reissued many times over by a variety of different labels and distributors. While Small Talk at 125th and Lenox and Pieces of a Man have been universally celebrated for their musical, poetic, and militant vision, Free Will, the final date for the label, has been the subject of much debate over the decades. On the original LP, one side featured songs and the other spoken word. While Brian Jackson had been Gil's musical partner since before Pieces of a Man was recorded, he was never given his proper due as a co-composer and collaborator. Free Will reveals that collaboration and balance in full. Before recording, Jackson wanted more music, Gil wanted more spoken word; they got both and the album is all the better for it. It is the contrast and juxtaposition on that recording that provided the impetus for the Dean Rudland-compiled The Revolution Begins: The Flying Dutchman Masters. Disc one features all of the Scott-Heron and Jackson songs recorded for the label, regardless of which album they appeared on. From "Lady Day and John Coltrane," "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" (which, it turns out, Scott-Heron may have been singing into a mirror all along, and by home, he wasn't referring to his family, but America itself), and the second version of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" with musical backing, to "Pieces of a Man," "Who'll Pay the Reparations On My Soul," and more, all play out in an intense, soulful, funky, beautifully remastered, hour-long set. Disc two contains all of the spoken word material, which includes virtually all of Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, the second half of Free Will, and other pieces, including the liberal-baiting "The Subject Was Faggots" and "Wiggy." The lone deviation is "Artificialness," on which Scott-Heron fronts Pretty Purdie & His Playboys on a spoken word blues shuffle. The final disc contains an alternately assembled version of Free Will. While shoddy and edited versions of some of its tracks appeared on an earlier RCA compilation, these are the full alternate takes, carefully remixed from original multi-track session tapes, with particular attention paid to the source material. As such, an entirely different Free Will is on display with a real feel for session flow, despite the separation of music and poetry on it; it's not better or worse, but very different. It is a treasure trove of kinetic studio energy with an abundance of free-flowing ideas in process. The Revolution Begins does present a problem, however. By jumbling recordings into what, in essence, is a pair of anthologies, Small Talk and Pieces of a Man are dislocated from their original contexts, which creates an unnecessary separation between music and poetry that were initially regarded as a multi-dimensional and holistic force. Though that shift in history and intent is present, it's far from a deal breaker, because all of the material on The Revolution Begins is unassailable. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released February 7, 2020 | XL Recordings

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
A year before passing away in the spring of 2011, Gil Scott-Heron released an extraordinary future-blues album, one of the most beautiful works of his entire discography, when even his most loyal fans had stopped expecting anything new from their idol standing the test of life, dope and paranoia. With I’m New Here, his generation’s most out-of-this-world poet, singer, songwriter and jazzman, and the man who was considered by many as the godfather of hip-hop blended his politically charged prose with a stripped back instrumentation produced by Richard Russell, patron of the XL Recordings label who went to collect him from Rikers Island prison in New York so that they could work together. A year later, Jamie xx from the band The xx made We’re New Here which cleverly remixed the entire album and became a fascinating example of top-tier minimal electro… To celebrate ten years since I’m New Here, Russell has called on one of the most talked-about jazzmen of the moment, drummer Makaya McCraven, to ‘reimagine’ it in his own way. The result is surprising, and sheds a new light on the opus. The original simplicity has been shunned in favour of an orgy of pure jazz improvisation, paired with a huge level of groove. Makaya is the perfect candidate for finding the right level of playing to match the crepuscular flow emitted by Gil Scott-Heron. Striking a balance between honouring the departed soul brother and affirming his own voice, the drummer appears to highlight the link between Scott-Heron and percussion. Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, his first album released in 1970, was in fact only composed of vocals and percussion. Hopefully this beautiful project We’re New Again will incite the younger generation to rediscover Gil Scott-Heron’s work, some of the most underestimated music of the 20th century. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released January 1, 1971 | Ace Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Gil Scott-Heron's 1971 album Pieces of a Man set a standard for vocal artistry and political awareness that few musicians will ever match. His unique proto-rap vocal style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists, and nowhere is his style more powerful than on the classic "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Even though the media -- the very entity attacked in this song -- has used, reused, and recontextualized the song and its title so many times, the message is so strong that it has become almost impossible to co-opt. Musically, the track created a formula that modern hip-hop would follow for years to come: bare-bones arrangements featuring pounding basslines and stripped-down drumbeats. Although the song features plenty of outdated references to everything from Spiro Agnew and Jim Webb to The Beverly Hillbillies, the force of Scott-Heron's well-directed anger makes the song timeless. More than just a spoken word poet, Scott-Heron was also a uniquely gifted vocalist. On tracks like the reflective "I Think I'll Call It Morning" and the title track, Scott-Heron's voice is complemented perfectly by the soulful keyboards of Brian Jackson. On "Lady Day and John Coltrane," he not only celebrates jazz legends of the past in his words but in his vocal performance, one that is filled with enough soul and innovation to make Coltrane and Billie Holiday nod their heads in approval. More than three decades after its release, Pieces of a Man is just as -- if not more -- powerful and influential today as it was the day it was released. ~ Jon Azpiri
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released May 27, 2016 | Ace Records

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Jazz - Released March 1, 1981 | Arista

Although a major across-the-board hit always eluded the poet, singer, and activist Gil Scott-Heron, this album does contain one of his best-known songs. "B-Movie," an extended attack on Ronald "Ray-gun," unleashes 12 minutes of vitriol about the then recently elected president. Beginning with the declaration "Mandate, my ass," it's a laundry list of fears about Reagan, fantasizing that his election meant "we're all actors" in some surreal film. Delivered over a taut funk groove, parts of it are still funny. Elsewhere, Scott-Heron takes an early stab at endorsing firearm control on "Gun"; slows things down for "Morning Thoughts"; and explores reggae's rhythms and revolutionary power on "Storm Music," a direction he'd pursue more fully on his next album, Moving Target. The disc also includes a pair of covers that offer varying degrees of success: Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands" is a natural for Scott-Heron's warm baritone and a bright soul-jazz arrangement from the Midnight Band, but the version of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," while it swings convincingly, has a lengthy spoken-word riff that fails to embellish on the pain implicit in the original. Overall, Reflections doesn't capture Scott-Heron at the peak of his game, though anyone who enjoyed the other works from his Arista period certainly won't be disappointed. ~ Dan LeRoy
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Jazz - Released September 29, 2014 | Ace Records

Gil Scott-Heron's third album is split down the middle, the first side being a purely musical experience with a full band (including flutist Hubert Laws and drummer Pretty Purdie), the second functioning more as a live rap session with collaborator Brian Jackson on flute and a few friends on percussion. For side one, although he's overly tentative on the ballad "The Middle of Your Day," Scott-Heron excels on the title track and the third song, "The Get Out of the Ghetto Blues," one of his best, best-known performances. The second side is more of an impromptu performance, with Scott-Heron often explaining his tracks by way of introduction ("No Knock" referred to a new police policy whereby knocking was no longer required before entering a house, "And Then He Wrote Meditations" being Scott-Heron's tribute to John Coltrane). His first exploration of pure music-making, Free Will functions as one of Scott-Heron's most visceral performance, displaying a maturing artist who still draws on the raw feeling of his youth. The Bluebird reissue from 2001 includes eight alternate takes, best being an alternate of the title track. ~ John Bush
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R&B - Released February 7, 2020 | XL Recordings

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R&B - Released March 20, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

In 1980, Gil Scott-Heron had a nice opportunity to promote his Real Eyes album when he became the opening act on Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July tour. On his own, Scott-Heron usually played small clubs, but opening for Wonder gave him the chance to perform in front of thousands of Wonder fans in major stadiums and sports arenas. Many of Wonder's white fans seemed to be unfamiliar with Scott-Heron (who had never had a major pop hit), while a lot of Wonder's black fans at least knew him for "The Bottle" and "Angel Dust" even if they hadn't bought a lot of his albums. Opening for all those Wonder fans certainly didn't hurt Scott-Heron's career, but it didn't make him a superstar either. While it's possible that some Wonder fans enjoyed Scott-Heron's opening sets enough to go out and purchase Real Eyes, most of the people who acquired this LP were already confirmed Scott-Heron fans. Unfortunately, Real Eyes lacked a hit single, although the material is excellent nonetheless. As usual, Scott-Heron has a lot of sociopolitical things on his mind -- "The Train From Washington" concludes that the working class can't depend on the U.S. government for anything, while "Not Needed" angrily points the finger at companies who consider longtime employees expendable. And the album's less sociopolitical songs are equally memorable. "Your Daddy Loves You" is a touching ode to Scott-Heron's daughter Gia Louise (who was only a child in 1980), and the jazz-oriented "A Legend in His Own Mind" is a humorous, clever put-down of a wannabe "Casanova" who isn't nearly the ladies' man he brags about being. Scott-Heron's love of jazz serves him well on "A Legend in His Own Mind" and the smoky "Combinations," but make no mistake: Real Eyes is an R&B album more than anything. ~ Alex Henderson
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Soul - Released November 15, 2010 | Soul Brother Records

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R&B - Released February 22, 2010 | XL Recordings

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Jazz - Released April 27, 2015 | Ace Records

Disregard the understated title; Small Talk at 125th and Lenox was a volcanic upheaval of intellectualism and social critique, recorded live in a New York nightclub with only bongos and conga to back the street poet. Here Scott-Heron introduced some of his most biting material, including the landmark "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" as well as his single most polemical moment: the angry race warning "Enough." Still, he balances the tone and mood well, ranging from direct broadsides to clever satire. He introduces "Whitey on the Moon" with a bemused air ("wanting to give credit where credit is due"), then launches into a diatribe concerning living conditions for the neglected on earth while those racing to the moon receive millions of taxpayer dollars. On "Evolution (And Flashback)," Scott-Heron laments the setbacks of the civil rights movement and provides a capsule history of his race, ending sharply with these words: "In 1960, I was a negro, and then Malcolm came along/Yes, but some nigger shot Malcolm down, though the bitter truth lives on/Well, now I am a black man, and though I still go second class/Whereas once I wanted the white man's love, now he can kiss my ass." The only sour note comes on a brush with homophobia, "The Subject Was Faggots." ~ John Bush
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released September 3, 2010 | Windham Hill - Legacy

Gil Scott-Heron's last proper album for more than a decade, Moving Target was recorded after a period of intense touring (hence the title) and, perhaps understandably, finds the Midnight Band playing a larger role than usual. It also may reflect the group's travels, as the typical, tastefully jazzy R&B and funk grooves -- like set-opener "Fast Lane" and "Explanations" -- are supplemented with more exotic sounds. Like Stevie Wonder, for whom he and the Midnight Band opened a tour in 1980, Scott-Heron and his bandmates were experimenting with reggae. "No Exit" has clear echoes of Bob Marley, while "Ready or Not" is a sultry island jam. Both tunes also had themes more personal than political, a shift noticeable elsewhere on the album (even "Washington D.C.," with its seemingly obvious subject, is as much about the resilient spirit of D.C.'s citizens as it's about the city's politicians). That's somewhat surprising, given that Scott-Heron had recently enjoyed success with "B-Movie," a pointed attack on then-president Ronald Reagan. But "Blue Collar" is a populist manifesto that gives shout-outs to working folks in a variety of professions across the fruited plain before concluding with the dispirited chorus, "There ain't no place we ain't been down," and "Black History/The World" offers nearly ten minutes of Afro-centric theorizing, beginning with a spoken introduction that hearkens back to Scott-Heron's sarcastic, poetic beginnings and ends with a simple -- some would say simplistic -- plea for peace and world change. ~ Dan LeRoy
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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released January 5, 1994 | The Orchard

With Spirits, Gil Scott-Heron made a triumphant return to the studio after a 12-year absence. Though the politically charged R&B singer's voice had deteriorated, much of his soulfulness comes through. His songwriting is consistently excellent, and songs ranging from "Message to the Messengers" (which advises young rap artists to use their power wisely) to "Work for Peace" leave no doubt that his sociopolitical observations are as sharp as ever. One of the most riveting cuts is "The Other Side," an extended remake of his early-'70s classic "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" (which describes a drug addict's struggle). The East Coaster had been battling addiction himself during his absence from recording, and this heartfelt song isn't for the squeamish. Scott-Heron had successfully dabbled in jazz over the years, and in fact, among the CD's many strong points are the lyrics he adds to John Coltrane's "Spirits." One cannot help but wish Scott-Heron still had a great voice to go with this material, but even so, Spirits is powerful listening. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released September 30, 2006 | Prestige Elite

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 29, 2018 | Imperial Presents

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R&B - Released April 1, 2015 | XL Recordings

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Jazz - Released February 4, 2020 | XL Recordings

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Jazz - Released November 26, 2012 | Ace Records

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Blues - Released May 9, 2016 | Trashy Pop