Thursday, January 4, 2007

GSH meets TONTO

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson - Bridges
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?

8 comments:

steveswami said...

Gil is such a fascinating character. He's a documentary movie waiting to happen. How can a man who openly addressed the profound negative influences of drugs and poverty end up like he has? Amazing musician, truly underappreciated in mainstream music culture.

Cary Grant said...

"1980" is also so illin'....

chaamba said...

Now playing this great album, I wanted to thank you TBA for sharing it, allowing me to discover the beautiful "song of the wind".

Wiganova said...

Thanks for this - fills in the gap of the one Gil album I don't have. (lost it 5 years ago)
Regarding the above comment - If The Godfather of Soul can get bitten by drugs, anyone can.There was a half decent documentary made by the BBC last year on GSH - look out for it.
Best wishes to Gil and come on back man, we miss ya.

Bassman said...

Great stuff thanks. I am actually looking and have been looking for what seems like forever for his "1980" album. I have looked everywhere. Ebay had a Japanese Import CD which I'd love to get but it went for $62!!!
If anyone can post it I would be grateful Thanks.

Dr Debaser said...

Great post..Ilove GSH.........
apart from a few CDs
GSH stuff is very hard to get hold of. I missed this one -- Can any one repost please?

Thanks Dr Debaser

bobby said...

maybe he's burnin' up what he don't need...he's got a lot more than most, y'know.

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