Feb 4, 2017

RhoDeo 1705 Grooves


Today's artist is an American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken-word performer in the 1970s and 1980s. His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles. He received post mortem a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.  ..... N'joy

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One of the most important progenitors of rap music, Gil Scott-Heron's aggressive, no-nonsense street poetry inspired a legion of intelligent rappers while his engaging songwriting skills placed him square in the R&B charts later in his career, backed by increasingly contemporary production courtesy of Malcolm Cecil and Nile Rodgers (of Chic). Born in Chicago but transplanted to Tennessee for his early years, Scott-Heron spent most of his high-school years in the Bronx, where he learned firsthand many of the experiences that later made up his songwriting material. He had begun writing before reaching his teenage years, however, and completed his first volume of poetry at the age of 13. Though he attended college in Pennsylvania, he dropped out after one year to concentrate on his writing career and earned plaudits for his novel, The Vulture.

Encouraged at the end of the '60s to begin recording by legendary jazz producer Bob Thiele -- who had worked with every major jazz great from Louis Armstrong to John Coltrane -- Scott-Heron released his 1970 debut, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, inspired by a volume of poetry of the same name. With Thiele's Flying Dutchman Records until the mid-'70s, he signed to Arista soon after and found success on the R&B charts. Though his jazz-based work of the early '70s was tempered by a slicker disco-inspired production, Scott-Heron's message was as clear as ever on the Top 30 single "Johannesburg" and the number 15 hit "Angel Dust." Silent for almost a decade, after the release of his 1984 single "Re-Ron," the proto-rapper returned to recording in the mid-'90s with a message for the gangsta rappers who had come in his wake; Scott-Heron's 1994 album Spirits began with "Message to the Messengers," pointed squarely at the rappers whose influence -- positive or negative -- meant much to the children of the 1990s.

In a touching bit of irony that he himself was quick to joke about, Gil Scott-Heron was born on April Fool's Day 1949 in Chicago, the son of a Jamaican professional soccer player (who spent time playing for Glasgow Celtic) and a college-graduate mother who worked as a librarian. His parents divorced early in his life, and Scott-Heron was sent to live with his grandmother in Lincoln, TN. Learning musical and literary instruction from her, Scott-Heron also learned about prejudice firsthand, as he was one of three children picked to integrate an elementary school in nearby Jackson. The abuse proved too much to bear, however, and the eighth-grader was sent to New York to live with his mother, first in the Bronx and later in the Hispanic neighborhood of Chelsea.

Though Scott-Heron's experiences in Tennessee must have been difficult, they proved to be the seed of his writing career, as his first volume of poetry was written around that time. His education in the New York City school system also proved beneficial, introducing the youth to the work of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes as well as LeRoi Jones. After publishing a novel called The Vulture in 1968, Scott-Heron applied to Pennsylvania's Lincoln University. Though he spent less than one year there, it was enough time to meet Brian Jackson, a similarly minded musician who would later become a crucial collaborator and integral part of Scott-Heron's band.

Given a bit of exposure -- mostly in magazines like Essence, which called The Vulture "a strong start for a writer with important things to say" -- Scott-Heron met up with Bob Thiele and was encouraged to begin a music career, reading selections from his book of poetry Small Talk at 125th & Lennox while Thiele recorded a collective of jazz and funk musicians, including bassist Ron Carter, drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Hubert Laws on flute and alto saxophone, and percussionists Eddie Knowles and Charlie Saunders; Scott-Heron also recruited Jackson to play on the record as pianist. Most important on the album was "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," an aggressive polemic against the major media and white America's ignorance of increasingly deteriorating conditions in the inner cities. Scott-Heron's second LP, 1971's Pieces of a Man, expanded his range, featuring songs such as the title track and "Lady Day and John Coltrane," which offered a more straight-ahead approach to song structure (if not content).

The following year's Free Will was his last for Flying Dutchman, however; after a dispute with the label, Scott-Heron recorded Winter in America for Strata East, then moved to Arista Records in 1975. As the first artist signed to Clive Davis' new label, much was riding on Scott-Heron to deliver first-rate material with a chance at the charts. Thanks to Arista's more focused push on the charts, Scott-Heron's "Johannesburg" reached number 29 on the R&B charts in 1975. Important to Scott-Heron's success on his first two albums for Arista (First Minute of a New Day and From South Africa to South Carolina) was the influence of keyboardist and collaborator Jackson, co-billed on both LPs and the de facto leader of Scott-Heron's Midnight Band.

Jackson left by 1978, though, leaving the musical direction of Scott-Heron's career in the capable hands of producer Malcolm Cecil, a veteran producer who had midwifed the funkier direction of the Isley Brothers and Stevie Wonder earlier in the decade. The first single recorded with Cecil, "The Bottle," became Scott-Heron's biggest hit yet, peaking at number 15 on the R&B charts, though he still made no waves on the pop charts. Producer Nile Rodgers of Chic also helped on production during the 1980s, when Scott-Heron's political attack grew even more fervent with a new target, President Ronald Reagan. (Several singles, including the R&B hits "B Movie" and "Re-Ron," were specifically directed at the President's conservative policies.) By 1985, however, Scott-Heron was dropped by Arista, just after the release of The Best of Gil Scott-Heron. Though he continued to tour around the world, Scott-Heron chose to discontinue recording. He did return, however, in 1993 with a contract for TVT Records and the album Spirits.

For well over a decade, Scott-Heron was mostly inactive, held back by a series of drug possession charges. He began performing semi-regularly again in 2007, and one year later, announced that he was HIV-positive. He recorded an album, I'm New Here, released on XL in 2010. In February of 2011, Scott-Heron and Jamie xx (Jamie Smith of xx) issued a remixed version of the album, entitled We're New Here, also issued on XL. Scott-Heron died on the afternoon of May 27, 2011, at St. Luke's Hospital, New York City, after becoming ill upon returning from a European trip, consider an airline cabin is always a cocktail of virusses and bacteria which proved to be too much for the weakened by HIV elderly man.

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This Gil Scott-Heron double album, roughly two thirds of which was recorded live in Boston on July 2-4, 1976, makes the most of its Centennial-centric time frame. Between the American flag striped cover art and Heron's spoken word spiel on an 8-and-a-half minute poem/rant "Bicentennial Blues," the album loses little of its impact, regardless of how the years have mildewed once fresh political topics like Nixon, Agnew, and Watergate. Four of its songs are studio recordings ("It's Your World," "Possum Slim," "New York City," and "Sharing"), and even though they're up to Heron's usual jazz/blues/pop standards, the disc is most effective on the concert tracks. As he explains in the 2000 penned liner notes, The Midnight Band was a compelling live unit and one listen to the brisk, electrifying, 13-minute rendition of "The Bottle," one of Heron's most penetrating tracks, is all you'll need to understand why. More importantly, like the best protest music, these tunes have lost none of their lyrical edge or incisiveness throughout the years. Musically the band is taut and rehearsed down to the finest time change, yet loose enough to open up on the jams. The heavy Latin percussion/flute/piano -- but remarkably guitar-less -- sound is equal parts Santana and Mongo Santamaria with a strong jazz current throughout, especially on the John Coltrane tribute "Trane," featuring tenor hornman Bilal Sunni-Ali's fiery lead. Scott-Heron's deep, mellifluous voice is alternately soothing and cutting, infusing the music with heart and soul, while keeping the sound focused even during the longer improvisations. Only a dated '70s drum solo belies the year this was recorded. Chestnuts like "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" explode in extended live versions that become definitive readings of the tunes. Remastered for its reissue, It's Your World crackles with energy, presenting an accomplished band at their peak and placing the listener practically on stage for the live tracks with acoustics that are full, yet airy and spacious. One of Gil Scott-Heron's best albums as well as a compelling musical time capsule, the disc is proof of the artist's musical and lyrical acuity and is a moving listening experience.

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson - It's Your World      (flac  453mb)

Just Before Sundown
01 It's Your World 3:52
02 Possum Slim 6:00
03 New York City 4:45
04 17th Street 5:45
05 Trane 7:20
06 Must Be Something 5:20
Late Evening
07 Home Is Where The Hatred Is 12:10
08 Bicentennial Blues 8:40
Midnight And Morning
09 The Bottle 13:30
10 Sharing 5:55

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson - It's Your World    (ogg    194mb)

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Gil Scott-Heron, Brian Jackson, and the Midnight Band take a slightly different approach with their 1977 effort, Bridges. With less of the gaping and world-infused sound prevalent on previous albums, the songs are more concise and Scott-Heron comes into his own as a singer depending less on his spoken word vocal style. The excellent songwriting exposes Scott-Heron at the height of his powers as a literary artist. The social, political, cultural, and historical themes are presented in a tight funk meets jazz meets blues meets rock sound that is buoyed by Jackson's characteristic keyboard playing and the Midnight Band's colorful arrangements. Scott-Heron's ability to make the personal universal is evident from the opening track, "Hello Sunday! Hello Road!," all the way through to the gorgeous "95 South (All of the Places We've Been)." The most popular cut on the album, "We Almost Lost Detroit," which shares its title with the John G. Fuller book published in 1975, recounts the story of the nuclear meltdown at the Fermi Atomic Power Plant near Monroe, MI, in 1966. This song was also contributed to the No Nukes concert and album in 1980. Along with the two records that would follow in the late 70s, Bridges stands as one of Scott-Heron's most enjoyable and durable albums.

Gil Scott-Heron & B.Jackson - Bridges   (flac  208mb)

01 Hello Sunday! Hello Road! 3:37
02 Song Of The Wind 3:53
03 Racetrack In France 4:15
04 Vidgolia (Deaf, Dumb & Blind) 7:41
05 Under The Hammer 3:59
06 We Almost Lost Detroit 5:19
07 Tuskeegee #626 0:33
08 Delta Man (Where I'm Comin' From) 5:45
09 95 South (All Of The Places We've Been) 4:15

Gil Scott-Heron & B.Jackson - Bridges  (ogg   89mb)

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Music sometimes serves the purpose of not just entertaining but also telling the marginal history of the times. The untold stories and feelings of the ignored and uncelebrated. And this is one of the many recordings where Gil Scott-Heron did just that. Angel Dust, the lead song, is one of those timeless grooves with a deep message. The passion and hurt is something you can't help but feel. It gives voice to the victims of the streets and the ones that they left behind. Other solid efforts as well, especially the sarcastic Madison Avenue. A must have for those that can feel the music moreso than listen to it

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson - Secrets    (flac 193mb)

01 Angel Dust 4:16
02 Madison Avenue 3:11
03 Cane 3:34
04 Third World Revolution 4:23
05 Better Days Ahead 3:30
06 Three Miles Down 4:19
07 Angola, Louisiana 5:34
08 Show Bizness 2:52
09 A Prayer For Everybody / To Be Free 6:28

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1980 can be viewed as a precursor for the venomous rants Gil Scott-Heron would unleash on the eventual Reagan-led White House. Loaded with perceptive and poignant observations on the state of America as it advanced into a new and uncertain decade, 1980 is a powerful final album of '70s for Scott-Heron and his partner Brian Jackson. Amazingly, Scott-Heron's focus at the close of the decade is strikingly similar to his focus on his 1970 debut, Small Talk at 125th and Lennox; namely that social and political change has yet to come to many Americans, despite the advancements in technology and other seemingly less significant realms. The enemies are the same: nuclear power and big business ("Shut Um Down"), oppressive governments ("Shah Mot"), and racism ("Willing"). On the title track, Scott-Heron's gaze is set on the future with an eye on the past as well. When he sings, "Boogie-Woogie's somewhere in the lost and found," he's not only speaking of the changes in music, but also in popular culture. There is a hint of resentment on his part that this musical style, like other revolutionary African-American innovations, has been progressively stolen, mined, sterilized, and eventually discarded. This is not to say that the music throughout the album is marked by regret or sorrow. The spacy synthesizers, background vocals, and use of horns, along with Jackson's always-extraordinary arrangements, give the album a quality that matches the aura of the period without forgetting past musical styles. The descriptive "Alien (Hold on to Your Dreams)" is the album's most enduring song, vividly portraying the plight of Mexican illegal aliens living in Los Angeles and offering an uplifting refrain.

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson - 1980   (flac 185mb)

01 Shut 'um Down 5:13
02 Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams) 3:25
03 Willing 4:00
04 Corners 4:50
05 1980 6:00
06 Push Comes To Shove 3:34
07 Shah Mot (The Shah Is Dead / Checkmate) 4:04
08 Late Last Night 4:25

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these. I've been a fan of Gil since "Whitey on the Moon" opened this white-boy space cadet's eyes. You have a truly deep and wide range of music on this blog.