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Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here

By Scott Kara

Rating: * * * *

Gil Scott-Heron's heyday was the 1970s, when the street poet, rapper and musician was one of the most staunch and important political voices in music. His spoken word soul, with songs like the lippy Whitey On the Moon and, most famously, Revolution Will Not Be Televised was, well, revolutionary.

However, he succumbed to drug addiction and spent much of the 2000s in jail on drugs charges. But on his release in 2007 he started performing live and soon XL Recordings head honcho and producer Richard Russell came knocking to record some songs.

And the result is an album - his first in 13 years - which sees Scott-Heron reflecting on his life, while looking to the future. "No matter how far wrong you've gone/You can always turn around," he sings on the title track.

Though his flow is not quite as potent as in early 70s songs like Revolution and Whitey, he's just as stirring. And he is more emotive than ever on touching and heartfelt songs like the piano-driven I'll Take Care of You and the poetic singer-songwriter twist of the title track.

Also essential to the album's success are the mysterious and often spooky beats and sonic creations Russell conjures up as producer, which gives it a fresh and contemporary air.

It opens with the introductory, On Coming From a Broken Home Pt. 1, before lurching into Me and the Devil, with its eerie Endtroducing-era DJ Shadow beats, making for a powerful start. On Your Soul And Mine he coughs up a dark and tough trademark line, "'I am death,' cried the vulture", as the song agitates behind; Where Did the Night Go rumbles and broods; and the double-dutch hand claps and distorted thuds on New York Is Killing Me are inspired.

At just 28 minutes it's short, but packs a poignant punch and makes for a welcome return.

- NZ Herald

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