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Gil Scott-Heron

Free Will - AAA Remastered Vinyl Edition

    Released in 1971, Gil Scott-Heron’s second album “Pieces Of A Man” is a stone-cold classic and rightly seen as one of the greatest albums of all time.

    There is a reason why a full album of songs did not appear as a follow-up. Both Thiele and Scott-Heron’s writing partner Brian Jackson had been keen to move forward quickly with song-based material, but Scott-Heron saw himself first and foremost as a writer. A new novel, The Nigger Factory, would be published in 1972 and he also enrolled for writing seminars at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

    Once the decision was made to combine poetry and song, sessions were booked for the 2nd and 3rd March 1972. The first session with Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie (drums), Hubert Laws (flute/piccolo), David Spinozza (guitar), Jerry Jemmott (bass) and Brian Jackson (electric and acoustic piano) recorded the songs with Horace Ott taking care of the arrangements. The second was dedicated to poetry, recorded with Scott-Heron, Jackson, Eddie Knowles and Charlie Sanders from their college group Black & Blues. “Free Will” was released in 1972.

    The song side included the heart-rending Vietnam war commentary of ‘Do You Hear What They Said?’, the propulsive title track and the beautiful ‘The Middle Of Your Day’. The poetry side immerses you in the radical politics of the day via ‘No Knock’ and ‘The King Alfred Plan’, and ends with his heartfelt tribute to John Coltrane ‘...and then he wrote Meditations’. Like “Pieces Of A Man” it is a classic and a cornerstone of any record collection.

    When BGP inherited the honour of looking after the Flying Dutchman legacy we discovered that, as well as being almost unparalleled in his discovery of great talent, Bob Thiele also recorded it immaculately. The label’s master tapes sounded exceptional and when it has come to our reissue series have only ever required the most minimal of EQ before transferring them onto disc.

    With this is mind we have embarked on a series of all analogue re-mastering projects, to bring the listener as close to the sound captured on tape as possible. Our first release was Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces Of A Man” which was released early in 2023 and this second outing is “Free Will”. We took the original master tape to Frank Merritt at the Carvery who transferred the audio and mastered it before making this new cut himself. We then had it pressed on 180 gram vinyl and our only wish now is that you drop the needle, sit back and go back to 1972 to enjoy Gil Scott-Heron in his prime.


    Side One
    1. Free Will
    2. The Middle Of Your Day
    3. The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues
    4. Speed Kills
    5. Do You Hear What They Said?

    Side Two
    1. The King Alfred Plan
    2. No Knock
    3. Wiggy
    4. Ain’t No New Thing
    5. What Would Become Of Me
    6. Billy Green Is Dead
    7. Sex Education: Ghetto Style
    8. … And Then He Wrote Meditations

    Gil Scott-Heron & His Amnesia Express

    Legend In His Own Mind

      Critics in the early 1970s called Gil Scott-Heron the most important Black voice since Martin Luther King Jr and described him as a black Bob Dylan. "His poetry is with much muscle, with stiletto humor, with street talk, much of it justifiably angry and accurate," the New York Times wrote in 1975, marveling at the angry man from the Bronx.

      No wonder that decades later Scott- Heron was celebrated as the "Godfather of Rap". Born in Chicago, the musician, poet and pugnacious activist for human rights himself lived for years in the Bronx. Returning to his black roots, he died May 27, 2011, in New York's urban district Harlem.

      His legacy includes a fantastic concert Gil Scott-Heron gave with his band at the Schauburg Theater in Bremen (Germany) on April 18, 1981. The technicians of Radio Bremen were on site and recorded this ecstatic show.

      Gil's son Rumal Rackley on the release of this concert: "This album from a 1983 concert captures the spirit that permeated every performance throughout Gil Scott- Heron's travels in the US and abroad. From Europe to Asia to Australia to Africa, his work resonates at the heart and soul level."

      Live album of the unforgettable American soul/jazz singer, poet and civil rights activist Gil Scott-Heron (* April 1, 1949 in Chicago, + May 27, 2011 in New York), celebrated by the New York Times as "Godfather Of Rap". 112 minutes of exciting live atmosphere, captured by Radio Bremen in 1983, sonically refined by the mastering of Johannes Scheibenreif.


      Barry says: A legendary voice, unrivalled songwriter and unforgettable character, Gil Scott-Heron has been one of the most respected musicians and activists of all time. Here we get a real life, soaring performance from the man himself with The Amnesia Express. Astounding.


      We Almost Lost Detroit
      Angola, Louisiana
      Three Miles Down
      A Legend In His Own Mind
      Winter In America
      Shut 'Em Down
      Washington D.C.
      The Bottle

      Gil Scott-Heron

      Small Talk At 125th And Lenox - 2023 Reissue

        Gil Scott-Heron was twenty-one years old when he was signed to Flying Dutchman by Bob Thiele to make an album of his poetry. The resultant “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” was recorded before a small live audience and, released in 1970, sat perfectly in a world where the Last Poets had just tasted Top 10 success with their debut LP. “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” opened with a spoken word version of ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and also featured poems and musical pieces like ‘Omen’, ‘Brother’, ‘Plastic Pattern People’, ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Everyday’ that reflected on the black community and its condition within America at this time.

        The starkest of these sharp observational pieces from Scott-Heron was ‘Whitey On The Moon’, which recounts the US Government spending billions on landing a rocket on the moon at a time when, “a rat done bit my sister, Nell”.

        Like its follow-up – “Pieces Of A Man” – “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” is a classic album and we are delighted to serve it up again on vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with the original liner notes.

        With current “Big Talk” of going back to the moon, whilst injustice still prevails for many black people in America, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” still conveys a message that resonates today.


        Side One
        1. Introduction / The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
        2. Omen
        3. Brother
        4. Comment # 1
        5. Small Talk At 125th & Lenox
        6. The Subject Was Faggots
        7. Evolution (and Flashback)
        Side Two
        1. Plastic Pattern People
        2. Whitey On The Moon
        3. The Vulture
        4. Enough
        5. Paint It Black
        6. Who’ll Pay Reparations On My Soul?
        7. Everyday

        Gil Scott-Heron

        I'm New Here - 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition

        In February 2010, the late, legendary musician, poet and author Gil Scott-Heron released his thirteenth, and last, studio album. First conceptualised in 2005, and ultimately produced by XL Recordings head Richard Russell during New York recording sessions that commenced in January 2008, "I’m New Here" was Scott-Heron’s first album in thirteen years and found him sounding as vital, boundary-pushing and insightful as ever before.

        In addition to the original album, this 'I'm New Here' 10th Anniversary Edition features two unreleased tracks - a cover of Richie Havens’ 'Handsome Johnny’ and a previously unheard Scott-Heron song 'King Henry IV’ - as well as a selection of other recordings from the original I’m New Here sessions that were only previously available on a rare, vinyl only deluxe version of the LP.

        "Ten years ago I was in the midst of recording “I’m New Here” with Gil. There was a lot more to the experience than it was possible to process at the time, and there was some great material that never made it onto the album. Our cover of “Handsome Jonny” was the last recording Gil and I made on the last day of the last session for “I’m New Here”, at Clinton Studio in Hell’s Kitchen, NY, on September 19, 2009. Gil had introduced me to the original version of the song, explaining how Richie Havens had performed it in his opening set at Woodstock some forty years earlier, and we added it to a list of material we were considering for the album. In the end we recorded some of these songs, like Bobby Blue Bland’s “I’ll Take Care Of You”, Bill Callahan’s “I’m New Here” and Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil”, and didn’t get round to some others, including Joy Divison’s “Disorder”." - producer Richard Russell


        Barry says: A Piccadilly Records Album Of The Year back in 2010. There's little that can be said about this legendary outing from XL head Richard Russell and the great GSH that hasn't already been said, it's an absolutely essential listen, and this expanded edition makes it even more so. A wildly groundbreaking and influential recording.


        On Coming From A Broken Home (Pt. 1)
        Me And The Devil
        I'm New Here
        Your Soul And Mine
        Parents (Interlude)
        I'll Take Care Of You
        Being Blessed (Interlude)
        Where Did The Night Go
        I Was Guided (Interlude)
        New York Is Killing Me
        Certain Things (Interlude)
        The Crutch
        I've Been Me (Interlude)
        On Coming From A Broken Home (Pt. 2)
        Handsome Johnny
        King Henry IV
        Piano Player (Intro)
        Home Is Where The Hatred Is
        Winter In America
        Winter In America
        Jazz (Interlude)
        Is That Jazz
        A Place To Go (Interlude)
        My Cloud

        Gil Scott-Heron

        We're New Again - A Re-imagining By Makaya McCraven

        To mark the tenth anniversary of the release of "I’m New Here", the thirteenth - and last - studio album from the legendary US musician, poet and author Gil Scott-Heron, XL Recordings release a unique reinterpretation of the album by acclaimed US jazz musician Makaya McCraven. Titled "We’re New Again", the album's release comes exactly a decade after the release of Scott-Heron’s original Richard Russell-produced recording. Following in the footsteps of Jamie xx’s highly acclaimed 2011 remix album "We’re New Here", this is McCraven’s first release of 2020, following the huge global acclaim heaped upon his 2018 album "Universal Beings". One of the most vital new voices in modern jazz, McCraven is described by the New York Times as a "Chicago-based drummer, producer and beat maker, [who] has quietly become one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality".


        Special Tribute (Broken Home Pt. 1)
        I'm New Here
        Blessed Parents
        New York Is Killing Me
        The Patch (Broken Home Pt. 2)
        People Of The Light
        Being Blessed
        Where Did The Night Go
        Lily Scott (Broken Home Pt. 3)
        I'll Take Care Of You
        I've Been Me
        This Can't Be Real
        Piano Player
        The Crutch
        Guided (Broken Home Pt. 4)
        Certain Bad Things
        Me And The Devil

        Gil Scott-Heron

        The Revolution Will Not Be Televised / Home Is Where The Hatred Is

          Two tracks lifted from Gil's classic 1971 album 'Pieces Of A Man' back to back on A BGP 45. With its angry, spoken word vocal 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' went on to inspire the likes of Public Enemy decades later, while the track's low-slung funk groove has always made it a dancefloor favourite. On the flip 'Home Is Where The Hatred Is' is a jazzy soul / funk anthem with some of the best lyrics Gil ever wrote. 


          The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
          Home Is Where The Hatred Is

          Gil Scott-Heron

          Nothing New

          "In 2005, having decided to approach Gil Scott-Heron to suggest that we made a record, I stopped listening to any of his previous output. This was to avoid feeling intimidated by the weight of Gil's musical history, and by the sheer quality of the 14 studio albums he'd released since 1970.

          Part of my initial suggestion to Gil was that we recorded sparse, stripped down versions of his old songs. We both thought that might make an intriguing album. So we started off recording versions of some of Gil's repertoire, just voice and piano. But our album gradually evolved into something different - "I'm New Here", which as the title suggested, didn't touch on any of Gil's previous recordings (except for "Your Soul And Mine", which is a re-imagining of "The Vulture" from Gil's 1970 debut LP "Small Talk at 125th and Lennox").

          I didn't pay much attention to the acoustic versions of Gil's older repertoire that we had recorded, as I was so focused on our making an entirely new album. We didn't make the album we set out to; we made something different.

          In November 2011, six months after Gil died, I sat down to listen to the whole of Gil's back catalogue, on vinyl, album by album, chronologically. It's an incredible body of work; 13 albums between 1970 and 1982, and then 2 ("Spirits" and "I'm New Here") until Gil passed in 2011. I did this as a sort of meditative exercise, for the joy of sitting and listening to Gil, now that I was no longer getting to hear his voice down the phone from Harlem.

          I listened to these 15 albums over the course of a few weeks as a way to keep our communication going. They led me back to the acoustic piano versions of Gil's old songs that we had captured in New York and I found that they were in themselves remarkable; completely different to the originals, and full of magic in their simplicity. I realised we in fact had made the album we originally set out to, as well as "I'm New Here". We had recorded an album's worth of new, stripped down versions of some of Gil's best (but not necessarily best known) songs. We had recorded an album I thought should be called "Nothing New".

          "Nothing New" is recordings Gil and I made in New York of songs he chose from his catalogue, just voice and piano, pure Gil. I realised that each song he had chosen was from a different album of his. He had carefully curated the selection, so the album serves as an excellent introduction to his previous output.

          In our early letters, Gil had picked up on my use of the word "spartan" to describe how our record could be. The Oxford dictionary defines "spartan" as showing "indifference to comfort or luxury". Very Gil. "Nothing New" is truly spartan in that it is utterly sparse and devoid of anything that is not completely necessary. All it contains is Gil's singing and piano playing.

          You also hear excerpts of our conversations between takes; these give a sense of Gil's profound and profane nature. I believe Gil would approve of calling an album of him covering his own material "Nothing New"; the wordplay is inspired by him. Gil once expressed that he felt our album "could do with a few more yuks" - so now you can check out some of Gil's asides, and particularly the final interlude "On Bobby Blue Bland" for a glimpse of the man's playful sense of humour.

          Once I'd compiled and edited these songs, I made three acetates, and we screenprinted artwork at XL. I gave one of these three special copies to Gil's son Rumal Rackley, sent another to Gil's friend and keyboard player Kim Jordan in Washington DC, and the third went to Ms Mimi, who kept Gil's house in order. This could have been the end of the process, but Rumal felt we should share this work with people - so here it is.

          I hope you enjoy this album. It completes the set of 3 albums generated from our sessions in New York between 2005 and 2009 - the first 2 records being the main work "I'm New Here" and Jamie xx's remix album "We're New Here".

          This is "Nothing New"."

          Richard Russell, XL Recordings, London, 2014


          01. Did You Hear What They Said
          02. Better Days Ahead
          03. Household Name (Interlude)
          04. Your Daddy Loves You
          05. Changing Yourself (Interlude)
          06. Pieces Of A Man
          07. Enjoying Yourself (Outro)
          08. Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams)
          09. Before I Hit The Bottom (Interlude)
          10. 95 South (All Of The Places We’ve Been
          11. The Other Side
          12. The On/Off Switch (Interlude)
          13. Blue Collar
          14. On Bobby Blue Bland (Outro)

          Gil Scott-Heron

          I'm New Here


            'I’m New Here' sees proto-rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron still looking forward, still challenging conventions and expectations, with his first album in 13 years. Without doubt one of the most important voices in 20th century music, Gil Scott-Heron’s unfailingly sharp and ironic eye spared neither Black Power phonies or scheming presidents. In 1971 he laid out the blueprint for the whole rap genre with his slinky anthem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" while, throughout a career spanning five decades, his deep, soulful voice spoke of nukes, Reaganomics or apartheid, always from deep inside the tradition. "I’m New Here" sees Gil Scott-Heron sounding as vital as ever; a record that reveals something unexpected at every turn; one that sees Scott-Heron pushing, probing and testing the boundaries just as he always has. Alongside his "I’m New Here" collaborator – producer and XL Recordings head Richard Russell – Scott-Heron has made an album that eschews the cosy arrangements and retrospective leanings one might expect from an artist over forty years into their career.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Laura says: A truly remarkable album, and an almost permanent fixture on my turntable this year. Gil's storytelling is second to none; from the melancholy of opening track, "On Coming From A Broken" home, to the raw blues-stomp of "Me And The Devil" to the dark brooding "Where Did The Night Go" he paints vivid pictures of his world. He even takes a Bill Callahan (Smog) song and makes it his own. (It's so good in fact that it gives the album its name!) Sad, witty, melancholic, uplifting and thought provoking - this is Gil on top form.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. On Coming From A Broken Home (Pt. 1)
            2. Me And The Devil
            3. I’m New Here
            4. Your Soul And Mine
            5. Parents (Interlude)
            6. I’ll Take Care Of You
            7. Being Blessed (Interlude)
            8. Where Did The Night Go
            9. I Was Guided (Interlude)
            10. New York Is Killing Me
            11. Certain Things (Interlude)
            12. Running
            13. The Crutch
            14. I’ve Been Me (Interlude)
            15. On Coming From A Broken Home (Pt. 2)

            Vinyl Bonus Disc:
            1. Piano Player (Intro)
            2. Home Is Where The Hatred Is *
            3. Winter In America *
            4. Jazz (Interlude)
            5. Is That Jazz *
            6. A Place To Go (Interlude)
            7. My Cloud **
            * Live Studio Version
            ** Previously Unreleased

            Gil Scott-Heron’s second album, “Pieces Of A Man”, showed that his collaboration with musical partner Brian Jackson was very special. Although not a hit, it was a big enough success to warrant a follow-up, but when the time came Gil was unsure. With more books than albums to his name, he thought his future may have been as a writer, but Brian Jackson and producer Bob Thiele convinced him otherwise, and in March 1972 “Free Will” was recorded.

            The record’s first side comprised a set of songs that confirmed how well he and Brian Jackson worked together. The album’s masterpiece is ‘Did You Hear What They Said?’, one of the most effective evocations of war’s ultimate price. It was aimed at the conflict in Vietnam, but is as relevant today as when it was written. Other numbers seem to focus on the apathy or self-centred attitudes Gil saw in people’s actions. He was seeing the 60s dream turning sour and people standing idly by and letting it happen. It made for compelling art.

            Gil’s literary side was represented on the album’s second side, which saw him return to the spoken-word poetry found on “Small Talk At 125th And Lenox”, his first LP. The new material seemed to find him angrier and more incensed by the world. He railed against apathy in society and misuse of power by the Nixon administration. He took white musicians to task for ripping off black American music throughout the 20th century, questioning why Elvis was more successful than Chuck Berry. The only let-up occurs in the final track, ‘…And Then He Wrote Meditations’, a considered tribute to John Coltrane.

            TRACK LISTING

            Side 1
            01. Free Will
            02. The Middle Of Your Day
            03. The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues
            04. Speed Kills
            05. Did You Hear What They Said?
            06. The King Alfred Plan

            Side 2
            01. The King Alfred Plan
            02. No Knock
            03. Wiggy
            04. Ain't No New Thing
            05. Billy Green Is Dead
            06. Sex Education: Ghetto Style
            07. ...And Then He Wrote Meditations

            CD Bonus Tracks:
            1. Free Will (Alt Take 1)
            2. The Middle Of Your Day (Alt Take 1)
            3. The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues (Alt Ending)
            4. Speed Kills (Alt Take 3)
            5. Did You Hear What They Said? (Alt Take 1)
            6. The King Alfred Plan (Alt)
            7. No Knock(Alt)
            8. Wiggy (Alt)
            9. Ain't No New Thing (Breakdown Take)
            10. Billy Green Is Dead (Alt)
            11. ... And Then He Wrote Meditations (Breakdown Alt Take)

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