I'm New Here (XL Records, 02.2010)
For: Isaac Hayes, Tom Waits, Tricky
Byline:The funky soul-brother returns after a 15-year hiatus, redirecting his trademark social and political commentary inwards, making for a self-critical, strikingly honest testimonial. Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission by In Your Speakers, LLC.
Am I qualified to review a new Gil Scott-Heron record? Here’s what I know about Mr. Heron: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I know it’s a classic, but beyond that particular song, the man’s career - now entering its fifth decade - is largely unknown to me. Research tells me Heron has collaborated with some truly great artists, among them drummer Bernard Purdie, king of the shuffle groove, once John Coltrane bassist Ron Carter, and a large portion of his work contains a healthy collaboration with keyboardist Brian Jackson. So is that enough? What a track like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” really tells us about Gil Scott-Heron is that, though his music was once rooted in funk, his strong-willed spoken word delivery coupled with his well-defined disdain for commercial culture cast the performing artist as a voice of political awareness and social revolution for a specific generation, a theme that would continue to bloom with hip hop’s subsequently prominent emergence within American youth culture during the 80s and 90s.
Luckily for me, I’m New Here doesn’t require a deep knowledge of the artist’s past to be thoroughly rewarding. The record’s title suggest such an abandonment of history. Scott-Heron’s latest is a return to the studio after well over a decade and as a matter of course, the temporal-musical landscape in which he finds himself is vastly a different place. Would observations of the external political issues of the 70s really accomplish much today? Obviously the answer is no, but instead of resurrecting that kind of antithetically critical narrative and reworking its messages for a modern audience, Heron turns his attention inward and focuses on finding something perhaps more important, and that is himself. The result is a remarkably honest confessional that manages to strike a chord outside itself and within the listener. Getting a glimpse inside the mind of a man “past his prime” is also a journey of self-discovery, introspection, and contemplation.
The full article can be found at: www.inyourspeakers.com
Best music video of 2010 thus far: