Feb 11, 2017

RhoDeo 1706 Grooves

Hello,

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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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.



Gil Scott-Heron - Real Eyes    (flac  190mb)

01 (You Can't Depend On) The Train From Washington 4:49
02 Not Needed 3:57
03 Waiting For The Axe To Fall 4:49
04 Combinations 3:42
05 Legend In His Own Mind 3:42
06 You Could Be My Brother 6:23
07 The Klan 4:51
08 Your Daddy Loves You (For Gia Louise) 3:20

 (ogg     mb)

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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.



Gil Scott-Heron - Reflections   (flac  281mb)

01 Storm Music 4:51
02 Grandma's Hands 5:24
03 Is That Jazz? 3:43
04 Morning Thoughts 4:37
05 Inner City Blues (Poem: "The Siege Of New Orleans) 5:46
06 Gun 4:00
07 "B" Movie 12:10
Bonus
08 Re-Ron 6:47

Gil Scott-Heron - Reflections  (ogg   114mb)

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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.



Gil Scott-Heron - Spirits  (flac 328mb)

01 Message To The Messengers 4:57
02 Spirits 7:49
03 Give Her A Call 5:44
04 Lady's Song 3:14
05 Spirit's Past 3:00
06 The Other Side, Part I 5:25
07 The Other Side, Part II 6:11
08 The Other Side, Part III 6:40
09 Work For Peace 7:33
10 Don't Give Up 5:58

Gil Scott-Heron - Spirits   (ogg   140 mb)

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A previously unreleased live set recorded at London’s legendary Town and Country club and available for the first time. By the late 80s years of substance abuse had left Gil Scott-Heron rotten-toothed and out of it a lot of the time. In 1987 he missed a gig at London's Town & Country Club completely, turning up long after the venue had shut. The T&CC stuck with him though, booking him again in 1988 and hoping for the best. By then he'd gained a new manager, Freddie Cousaert, who had been responsible for turning the career of Marvin Gaye round in the early 80s, getting him off cocaine and back into the studio.

Gil might not have stuck to the straight and narrow in the years to come, but he was most in his element at live shows, and for this night he was on top form, running through old favourites like "Home Is Where The Hatred Is", "Save The Children", "Winter In America", "Angel Dust" and "Johannesburg", as well as chatting to the crowd and telling stories between songs. Gil is on fire throughout and obviously having a good night.



Gil Scott-Heron - Live At The Town & Country   (flac 552mb)

01 Black Men And Monster Movies 6:36
02 Space Song 5:57
03 We Almost Lost Detroit 4:17
04 Home Is Where The Hatred Is 11:12
05 Save The Children 9:18
06 The Vibemasphere 12:43
07 Angel Dust 13:22
08 The Blackground 13:48
09 Winter In America 9:06
10 The Spirit 18:51
11 Johannesburg 6:59

Gil Scott-Heron - Live At The Town & Country   (ogg 224mb)

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Skipped "Moving Target"....

Rho said...

Well Anon I don't have everything so...

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, no worries. You usually do (have everything) when you do a series like this, so I was just pointing it out in case you had just forgotten it perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for these gems Rho!
Peace,
Don Julian