Gil Scott-Heron – 1971 – Pieces Of A Man
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This album is a terrific introduction to GSH’s stuff and in my opinion his best album overall, edging out “Winter in America” and “South Africa to South Carolina,” and the Flying Dutchman classic “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”
No, you will not hear Gil’s poetry set to a spare percussion background, a la “Whitey on the Moon,” “Brother,” and “No Knock.” That is a drawback, and be sure go to the Flying Dutchman record for that. But what you will get is beautiful writing backed by a strong band. And Gil’s voice was in great form on this album; this is unfortunately no longer true.
There isn’t a weak tune, but several stand out: the poignant “Home is Where the Hatred Is“; the uplifting “I Think I’ll Call It Morning“; the spellbinding “The Prisoner“; and of course the classic “Revolution Will Not be Televised“, which could teach any number of lame present-day rappers how it once was done.
Buy it, put it on, and then lean back and enjoy hearing one of the most compelling voices ever to come out of music.
A1 The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 2:59
A2 Save The Children 4:55
A3 Lady Day And John Coltrane 3:10
A4 Home Is Where The Hatred Is 3:15
A5 When You Are Who You Are 3:01
A6 I Think I’ll Call It Morning 3:45
B1 Pieces Of A Man 4:22
B2 A Sign Of The Ages 4:05
B3 Or Down You Fall 3:08
B4 The Needle’s Eye 4:01
B5 The Prisoner 8:39
Gil Scott-Heron is one of the great recording artists of the 20th century; it is a shame that he is relatively unknown. His work is always interesting and I would recommend (almost) all of his albums. Pieces of a Man is one of his best, if not the best, albums.
Gil Scott-Heron draws on a wide range of influences: the music of John Coltrane, the blues, the oral traditions of the American South and many others to create fantastic music in a variety of different styles from spoken word/rap to (almost) soul. He is perhaps best known for his searing political (and personal) lyrics that are often so good that they can be read as poetry. However, he is also an excellent musician and the music always complements his lyrics. Musically this album is wonderful, interesting and varied, at times it is simply beautiful. As with much of Gil Scott Heron’s best work a lot of credit must go to Brian Jackson his long time and best collaborator.
‘Pieces of a Man’ finds GSH at his most perceptive and penetrating, both politically and personally.
‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘ is probably his most famous song – remarkably it works almost as well as poetry as it does as a song. Some of the references may now be a little obscure but it is an amazing, powerful piece of work that has lost little, if any, of its bite or relevance. ‘Save The Children‘ is a beautiful, uplifting plea to care for and nurture the next generation. ‘Lady Day & John Coltrane‘ is simply beautiful and a personal favourite. ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is‘ is haunting and wonderful, it is particularly poignant if you know anything about his personal life.
I could go on but it is almost a shame to highlight individual tracks because there isn’t a bad track here and the album deserves, almost demands, to be listened to in its entirety.
GSH is unique: he combines a penetrating intellect with wit & wisdom and a talent conveying emotion and pain succinctly, often beautifully. A righteous anger permeates his work but he never descends into bitterness or becomes overly preachy. His work is tempered with optimism and a desire for change. It is this combination that defines his work and sets him apart for all others.
This album is GSH at the peak of his powers and should be a part of everybody’s collection.
Buy it and treasure it