Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson - 1974 - Winter in America

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson 
Winter in America


01. Peace Go With You, Brother (As-Salaam-Alaikum)   
02. Rivers Of My Fathers   
03. A Very Precious Time   
04. Back Home   
05. The Bottle   
06. Song For Bobby Smith   
07. Your Daddy Loves You   
08. H2Ogate Blues   
09. Peace Go With You Brother (Wa-Alaikum-Salaam)   

Gil Scott-Heron: Piano, Vocals
Brian Jackson: Piano, Vocals
Danny Bowens: Bass
Bob Adams: Percussion

Recorded on September 4, 5 and October 15, 1973 at D&B Sound, Silver Springs, Maryland

Is this the most underrated soul album of all time?  In my opinion, yes it is.  I suppose I get how most people don't like this album nearly as much as I do.  It's just not what they're looking for.  They go into a Gil Scott-Heron album expecting a strong political agenda, an upbeat pace, and a lot of lyrics in each song.  I'm sure a lot of soul fans didn't like this album as much me because they go into a soul album not expecting such jazzy music.  You would think that the tag of "soul jazz" would steer them clear, but since Gil is such a praised soul artist, they undoubtedly listened to this album anyway.  This album does not fit that typical description of a Gil Scott-Heron album or a soul album, which is probably why this album isn't rated as highly as I think it should be. 

The reason that I think it should be rated so highly is because everything that I mentioned before and countless other aspects of this album click with me.  I love jazz and the Rhodes is one of my favorite instruments ever, easily the best keyboard ever invented.  The smooth, heart-melting sound of this album creeps its way up into my soul and comfortably rests there throughout the duration of the album.  The tranquil, happy feeling I get while listening to this album can't even be put into words. 

Gil himself is even better than the instrumental music.  He's known for his poetic lyrics, above all, because he's amazing at them.  He usually forms them into spoken word songs or sings them at an upbeat pace.  In doing so, he crams a lot of meaningful lyrics into each song, similarly to a political or conscious hip hop song, which is why he is known as the "Godfather of hip hop."  While I love that side of him, this album highlights a different side of him.  On this album, his voice, which is amazing and doesn't receive nearly enough credit, is highlighted.  The lyrics are still deep, meaningful, and poetic, but there aren't as many in each song, allowing him to draw out notes and put a lot of focus into the power and finesse of his voice.  The excellent, attention-gripping song writing is still there, but it's just slightly less prominent than on most of his other albums.  I could see how this could be a problem for someone, but it most definitely isn't a problem for me.  Gil has one of my favorite voices of all time, so the fact that it's highlighted on this album is a blessing for me.  Another thing that differs from his more popular albums is that there isn't so much focus on politics on this album.  "H20 Gate Blues" is highly political, but most of the album is focused around peace and love.  The theme of peace and love is a theme that can never be outdated and when it's conveyed by a non-corny song writer, such as Gil, it can never not be a great theme to make music about.  Between Gil's incredible, emotion-packed voice, excellent lyrics, and eternally relevant messages, this is easily one of my favorite vocal performances of any artist ever.

This album will always be underrated and slept on, but that doesn't change the fact that I consider it to be one of the best albums of all time.  The music is perfect, the vocals are perfect, the length is perfect, and I could (and will) listen to it a million times and love it every time.  Maybe this album doesn't deserve to be considered one of the all time greats because it doesn't appeal to enough people, but it's a perfect case of an album appealing to me and my personal preferences in every way possible.  I'm having a really hard time trying to wrap this review up, as I always do when it comes to my favorite albums.  How about this, if I had to summarize this album in one sentence, I would say that it's a perfect album...I can't think of anything's perfect.