Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx - We're New Here

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To the day a year ago, I didn’t show much love for the original album, I’m New Here, the first Gil Scott-Heron record in over a decade. And while my opinion remains unchanged, writing a bad review on one of my biggest heroes, left a bad after taste. But then again, I consider that review more as a guide to the good music Gil has recorded over the decades, mainly the late seventies and the early eighties.

However, lucky for me, this new album full of reworks by Jamie xx makes up for last year’s disappointment and gives me the chance to make with peace my conscience.01. I’m New Here
02. Home
03. I’ve Been Me (interlude)
04. Running
05. My Cloud
06. Certain Things (interlude)
07. The Crutch
08. Ur Soul & Mine
09. Parents (interlude)
10. Piano Player
11. NY Is Killing Me
12. Jazz (interlude)
13. I’ll Take Care Of U
My point of criticism back then was the attempt to package Gil’s lyrics into a modern world sound, for it failed by giving it the touch of records made more than 10 years ago. Jamie xx, however, seems like the perfect choice, the right man at the right time. Due to my lack of interest in bands like The xx, I was only recently introduced to his solo work, more dancefloor oriented music, somewhere between house and dubstep, with a touch of Joy Orbison, Ramadanman or James Blake. Arguably a modern sound.

The result is a forward thinking record, deep and playful, perfect headphone music. It works surprisingly well with Gil’s vocals, the very same I still criticized on the original, but they probably just needed the right context. Maintaining the overall sound scheme, Jamie xx made an album you can listen to in one flow, from start to finish, over and over again.

Longtime fans of Gil Scott-Heron might not approve of the record, but chances are they already felt the same about its predecessor. In his review for XLR8R, Michael Byrne mentions the lack Gil Scott-Heron’s persona on the record, something I agree with, but then I probably care more about the consistency of the finished work and leave aside questions about the artists original intent.

Limited Edition Vinyl Box Set

“We’re New Here” is available on CD, LP and digital, the vinyl included a free download of the MP3s (oddly enough with misspelled tags.) If you buy directly from the label, you can also get your hands on a limited edition boxset (pictured above) including CDs and heavyweight vinyl of both the album and its instrumental versions, as well as two photo prints.

May 30, 2011 Check this interview with Jamie xx in which he talks about working with Gil Scott-Heron, who sadly passed away this weekend

Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here

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It doesn’t happen often that I’m writing a bad review, and it’s kinda tragic that it happens, or has to happen, to one of my (if not the) greatest heroes: Gil Scott-Heron. I wasn’t too excited when I first heard the rumour of a new album, but then again I didn’t want to miss out on anything. And with one of my other heroes (actually a heroine) making a very respectable comeback last year, Grace Jones released her album Hurricane, I definitely wanted to give it a try.

In short, the album is the disappointment of the year for me. Sure, the year is still young and a lot can happen in the remaining 10 months, but maybe you understand my disappointment better if you know where my love for Gil Scott-Heron’s (old) music comes from.

Gil Scott-Heron found his way into my collection through a best-of compilation, which combined his first two studio albums, Pieces Of A Man and Free Will, the former being probably his best known record. Gil writes the most profound lyrics I have come across, combining socio-critical topics with his unique witty humour. While studying at Lincoln University, he met Brian Jackson with whom he soon started recording music. Scott-Heron’s lyrics and Jackson’s music soon proofed to be a match made in heaven. If Gil was the brain, Brian was the heart and the soul. Their collaboration lasted for about 10 years and in that time they recorded 9 albums together, the most important records Gil Scott-Heron has made to date.

Some years back, BBC4 produced the documentary Storm Music about the life of Gil Scott-Heron, interviewing many of his contemporaries. If you want to find out about Gil Scott-Heron, this is probably the best way to do so.01. On Coming From A Broken Home (part 1)
02. Me & The Devil
03. I’m New Here
04. Your Soul & Mine
05. Parents (interlude)
06. I’ll Take Care Of You
07. Being Blessed (interlude)
08. Where Did The Night Go
09. 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 (part 2)

There is no soul on “I’m New Here”, no jazz or funk, no groove! Someone at the label decided to give the music a modern touch, which could have worked – it has worked for others. Unfortunately, the music isn’t exactly modern, in its darkness it reminds me more of  what Tricky did – 10 years ago! I wonder what a legend the album could have been, if the likes of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, ?uestlove or Kaidi Tatham had been involved. Apart from the music, one has to say that Scott-Heron isn’t a young rascal anymore and his tongue no longer the sharpest – his voice got all sore and rusty. One might find a hint for that on the (terrible) cover for the record, but having suffered from drug addiction and imprisonment, it’s maybe no suprise after all and in the eye of the beholder.

One has to have great respect for the fact XL Records‘ Richard Russell brought Gil back to the studio and ultimately to the minds of music lovers – new or old. Personally, I think publishing a book or a CD with poems would’ve been the better choice. But then again, there were quite many good reviews and Gilles Peterson even crowned it Album Of The Week a while back. I can’t shake off the feeling that some of them, especially the major publications, tried to make up ignoring Gil Scott-Heron’s music in the past, or actually awarded him for his lifetime achievement – not for the new album.

The good news for die hard fans is the vinyl version of the album, as it includes acoustic reinterpretations of some old material, including the classics “Winter In America” or “Home Is Where The Hatred Is”.

Bonus Tracks:
C1. Piano Player (intro)
C2. Home Is Where The Hatred Is
C3. Winter In America
D1. Jazz (interlude)
D2. Is That Jazz
D3. A Place To Go (interlude)
D4. My Cloud For those who are new to Gil Scott-Heron and don’t get “I’m New Here”, let me recommend you some gems. Basically, you should check out all his music released between 1970 and 1982. My personal favourites are 1980, Secrets and Bridges, but you should probably begin with Pieces Of A Man and Winter In America.

As for this record, you can get it on CD, double-LP or the digital release. The Japanese CD has two bonus tracks that are also featured on the vinyl.