Let me just start out by saying that this is one of my all-time favorite albums. I find it damn sad that it has never been released on CD. This was the next planned release in the ambitious GSH re-issue program on TVT when legal troubles hit.
This album was a pivotal one in Gil's career, and the start of a new phase. His first few albums on Flying Dutchman were jazz and poetry, similar to the Last Poets stuff, but with a little more singing. Then, as Brian Jackson started playing a bigger role, he moved toward a proto-world beat sound. Here, he pinches Malcolm Cecil and his TONTO synth banks from Stevie Wonder, and moves into funk territory.
And, man, is his voice suited for it. This is pure thinking man's funk. Songs about nuclear meltdowns, watching the Steelers, dancing in France, syphilis, and racial politics in the south spread the word without sounding strident or bitchy. And Brian Jackson's synth lines keep the booties shaking long into the night.
From here, Gil's albums grew increasingly unfocused, probably as his drug problems grew worse. Still, each of the later albums has got a corker or three, even the 1993 "comeback" Spirits.
America could sure use a new Gil Scott-Heron to talk some goddam sense into it. Last time I saw him in concert, probably about '98 or so, he was amazing. Came out and just started rapping about politics, history, telling jokes. Obviously wasted. Pretty soon, without the crowd even noticing, he'd slipped into a nice electric piano groove. A couple minutes later, and a few more jokes and stories, a band popped out. Then, the game was on for about 45 precious minutes. I'll never see its like again.
Damn it Gil, get off the pipe and save your country, will ya?