I recall the first time I ever encountered the work of Gil Scott-Heron, I was in my mid teens and I had just borrowed a load of records, among them his 1971 release, Pieces of a Man from the public library on a whim (I had never heard of him before). I did that a lot back then – borrow whole batches of vinyl records during the summer vacation and listen to albums all week long. When I got home and slipped Pieces of a Man onto the turntable for the first time, Gil Scott-Heron blew my mind, especially with spoken word and vocal jazz tracks like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” and “Lady Day & John Coltrane” (all video clips below) to name just a few.
Then, in 2006, while Scott-Heron was serving an extended sentence for cocaine possession and contempt of court at New York’s Riker’s Island, Richard Russell – owner of the independent British label XL Recordings – visited him to propose a collaboration. The result was I’m New Here, Scott-Heron’s first album in thirteen years, released earlier in 2010, reflecting on Scott-Heron’s life and visions with his “trademark vocal power and insight, among Russell’s flickering, electronic soundscapes.” Their first video collaboration, a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil” (above). Let me tell you, I’ve got that very same feeling again. It takes quite an artist to really blow my mind that same way some 30 years apart.