Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gil Scott-Heron - 1971 - Pieces Of A Man

Gil Scott-Heron 
Pieces Of A Man

01. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
02. Save the Children
03. Lady Day & John Coltrane
04. Home Is Where the Hatred Is
05. When You Are Who You Are
06. I Think I'll Call It Morning
07. Pieces of a Man
08. A Sign of the Ages
09. Or Down You Fall
10. The Needle's Eye
11. The Prisoner

Gil Scott-Heron: vocals, writer
Brian Jackson: piano, electric piano, writer
Burt Jones: guitar
Ron Carter: double bass, bass guitar
Bernard Purdie: drums
Hubert Laws: flute, saxophone

The song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is the earliest incidence of rap that I've heard so far.  What's more, it features the flute playing of Hubert Laws.  That's right, flute in a rap song.  

The next thing that really struck me was the bass.  None other than Ron Carter makes the switch to electric bass, reminding me of Jaco Pastorius a little bit.  Those three musicians form a deadly  trio.  Hubert Laws only plays on three songs, I think.  That's not much of an issue though because he wouldn't have really fit in many of the other songs.    The style of the music varies from fusion on the first half to soul and jazz on the rest of the record.  What takes the album from being good to being great is the fact that everyone can identify with the lyrics about the plight of African Americans and subjects like depression.  

"Lady Day and John Coltrane" feels more like a statement about the power of music in general to enhance you life, with John Coltrane and Billie Holiday used as examples.  Scott-Heron has made it known on his records that he's a huge fan of Coltrane.  Kind of makes a person wonder what kind of crazy supergroup would have been inevitable had a few people not died prematurely.  Let's say Coltrane lived on.  Heron might have used Ron Carter to recruit Coltrane into this band.  Pretty much wherever Coltrane went, Elvin Jones followed, so they wouldn't have had to look far for a drummer.  So far we've got flute, vocal, drums, sax and bass.  What about guitar?  The only right person for the job would have Jimi Hendrix, yet another victim of too much celebrity.  Maybe throw John's talented wife Alice in on piano and harp.  Voila!  Potentially one of the best supergroups that will never be.  It's sad, really.

What I like better about this album versus Free Will is the presence of Ron Carter and that the lyrics are still political but don't go so far as to border on being anti-white.  It's one thing to stick up for your people but it's other to sound like you're verbally attacking another group in the process.  Let's not fight hate with hate. Pieces of a Man was released the same year as What's Going On by Marvin Gaye, has just as much political and social commentary, might be better, and yet gets a meager amount of recognition in comparison.  Yup, that's about how much sense I've come to expect from the music world.

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