XL Recordings, 2010. XLCD471RT
Gil Scott-Heron’s last album, I’m New Here was my favourite release of 2010. This is a bonus CD which was given away with the first few copies sold by Rough Trade. The tracks also appear on the vinyl edition. The highlight is three studio demos, just Gil playing piano and singing (tracks 2, 3 and 5). Tracklist and descriptions as follows:
1 Piano Player (Intro) 0:24 (Spoken)
2 Home Is Where The Hatred Is 3:20 (Original version on Pieces Of A Man)
3 Winter In America 5:33 (Original Version on Winter In America)
4 Jazz (Interlude) 3:24 (Spoken)
5 Is That Jazz 4:35 (Original version on Reflections)
6 A Place To Go (Interlude) 0:49 (Spoken)
7 My Cloud 3:55 (This is described as previously unreleased. It’s obviously an old recording, but it’s not clear where it comes from)
I’m New Here was his first album in 15 years and represented quite a departure both musically and lyrically. The mellow jazzy feel of his earlier material is replaced by a much more contemporary, edgy sound which works better with his voice than anything he’d done before. Lyrically the politics he’s known for takes a back seat to the personal – this is an autobiographical album.
I was really upset when he died in 2011. A lifetime of drug addiction had seen him spend much of his adult life in prison: the crazy and unjust result of treating drug addiction as a criminal, not a medical problem. Dealt with medically, Gil might still be with us, and he wouldn’t have spent so much of his life languishing pointlessly in prison. Still, he leaves behind an amazing body of work, some of which represents not just great music, but some of the most profound social and political commentary of the 20th century.
You should buy I’m New Here. I’ve heard nothing to touch it so far this decade. Further back in time, I’d go for Winter In America and Pieces Of A Man (which includes the better known version of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised), but really, everything he released is worth hearing.