This album is basically exactly what it says on the tin, there are no new songs on here, not surprising really as it was released posthumously, originally in 2014 for Record Store Day but now on general release. Not sure how that sits with the people who paid premium prices on RSD for what they thought was a limited release.
Anyhow, when Gill Scott-Heron went into the studio in 2007 to record ‘I’m new here’ he hadn’t released an album for 13 years, it started a two year journey for him and the people who were involved in the album, the musicians, the producers, sound engineers, photographers, and publicists. Gil Scott Heron was all about relationships, the people were as important as the music, which is probably why the album took two years to get recorded.
As part of that process Gil sat down at a piano and played a lot of his back catalogue, interspersed with stories and anecdotes. Why is the track ‘Winter in America’ not on the album ‘Winter in America’? The stories (and answers) were all recorded.
After the release of ‘I’m New Here’ the material was all archived, but not forgotten. After Gil’s death in 2011, Richard Russell the owner of XL records revisited this material and compiled the album we have here. The track list contains what Russell thinks are some of GS-H’s best work if not always his best known. You won’t find’ ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Or ‘The Bottle’ on this album, but you will find ‘Pieces of a Man’ and ‘Did You Hear What They Said’. This is not a greatest hits album, it is an artist revisiting songs after 35 to 40 years with the new perspective that time brings, stripped of anger but dripping in pathos.
I am not sure that this album is for those new to Gil Scott-Heron, I would recommend a visit to his back catalogue before this, but for those familiar with his work this is a beautiful album and I am very glad that it was released.
Accompanying the vinyl copy that I reviewed was a DVD film entitled ‘Who is Gil Scott-Heron?’ it is not a biopic of his life but rather a series of comments about what his life meant to those who knew him and worked with him and how it affected them. An excellent film in its own right.
The two together make this remarkably good value and a must for any fan’s collection.