Gil Scott-Heron – From South Africa to South Carolina (1976)

In honor of true friends

One of my dearest friends left town yesterday for greener pastures. We may or may not ever share the same geographic space again, but our friendship has a closeness that can bridge the gap of distance. I admire Anneeth as I always have for her commitment to social justice; to uncovering the silences at the intersections of race, gender, and capital; her attention to the everyday violences, to the harm wrought with words of which we are all capable, the injustice we commit against ourselves when we internalize the brutality.

We live in a world that is increasingly fickle when it comes to spatial boundaries, an era of time-space compression where borders are obliterated in the service of power and reconstituted again in nativistic reflex. Sometimes our own boundaries become blurred. Sometimes we grow distant from those we care about, and who care about us; sometimes we have the good fortune to find them again. She was the first friend I made in this town. Together we shared many struggles adjusting to a social milieu much smaller than that to which we were accustomed, our nostalgia and longing for Chicago, our frustrations with the petty gossip, the performativity, and the drama that engulfs this privileged college town.

Anneeth helped me to remember that respect for all life and commitment to equity and justice begins with remembering to be gentle with ourselves, with an acknowledgement of our own right to be. She has inspired me to filter out the toxic and surround myself with the positive energy of solid, reliable people. For her courage, for her good humor in the face of uncertainty, and for her compassion toward me and many, many others — I dedicate this album of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson, words written in blood and fire and sung with a commitment to change worthy of her. For your friendship.
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Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson
From South Africa to South Carolina

1. Johannesburg 4:52
2. A Toast To The People 5:47
3. The Summer Of ’42 4:42
4. Beginnings (The First Minute Of A New Day) 6:23
5. South Carolina (Barnwell) 3:45
6. Essex 9:17
7. Fell Together 4:30
8. A Lovely Day 3:29
9. South Carolina (Barnwell) (Live) 6:29
10. Save The Children (Live) 4:23
11. Johannesburg (Live) 11:14
12. Let Me See Your I.D.

* note: The sound quality on this TVT “remaster” is, unfortunately, an abomination. It doesn’t take an engineer’s ear to notice the life has been sucked out of a lot of this wonderful music — listen to drummer Bob Adam’s cymbal work on the song ‘Beginnings.’ Notice how his cymbal hits have no sustain whatsover? That’s not natural. Notice the weird sounding digital artifacts and distortion. That’s not natural either. Both are the result of sloppy analog-to-digital conversion and indiscriminate use of Dolby noise reduction to the analog tapes. Somebody got paid to fuck up the music like that. Thankfully the content of this record is strong enough to help you not notice so much.

Review by Ron Wynn

The collaboration between Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson was now a formal one, as they were issuing albums as a team. This was their second duo project to make the pop charts, and it included anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid themes, plus less political, more autobiographical/reflective material like “Summer of ’42,” “Beginnings (The First Minute of a New Day),” and “Fell Together.” Scott-Heron was now a campus and movement hero, and Jackson’s production and arranging savvy helped make his albums as arresting musically as they were lyrically.

Gil-Scott Heron pulled few punches on this powerful 1975 release, his second effort with the Midnight Band. The jazz here (“Summer of ’42,” “Essex”) is hard, flint-edged stuff, dipped in funk and Latin percussion. The ballads (“Beginnings,” “A Lovely Day”) are pretty, and the lyrics (especially on “A Toast to the People”) are potent. The Clash’s Mick Jones, a fan of Scott-Heron’s, once told Rolling Stone that “people would rather dance than fight wars,” but “Johannesburg” and the nuclear-power-protesting “South Carolina (Barnwell)” prove you can do both at the same time. Bonus tracks include live versions of the latter as well as the in-your-face anthem “Let Me See Your I.D.” from the 1985 Sun City project. –Michael Ruby

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