Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson “1980”
Released on Arista Records (AL 9514) in, um, 1980
Shut ‘Um Down 5:28
Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams) 4:09
Willing 4:16 Corners 4:47 1980 6:20 Push Comes To Shove 3:37 Shah Mot (The Shah Is Dead / Checkmate) 4:04 Late Last Night 4:25
This last collaboration between Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson is an excellent, underrated album that continues in the same downbeat soulful mode as “Bridges” and “Secrets” and is as equally good as those two. In fact this is might be a better, more consistent album than both of those. For some strange reason, I did not take to this record right away. I am not sure why it took longer for me to assimilate. Perhaps I could attribute it to the production — althought it is mixed extremely well, I feel like my head is stuffed with cotton or I just took a lot of cold medicine when I listen to it. But actually this is a characteristic of “Secrets” as well — it seems like all the higher frequencies were rollled off during the mastering process. But once my ears adjust (and/or I took a little EQ tweak on my system), all is golden
There are absolutely no bad songs here, although the song “Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams)” has always striken me as a little corny and trite. Although the issues of immigration, labor, and “illegality” it addresses have always been salient in Amerikkka, it is with an ironic twist that as the discourse on immigration issues has actually *worsened* rather than improved over the last several years, this song actually strikes me as LESS corny than it formerly had. Still, though, I don’t feel that it’s one of Gil’s better examples of sociomusical engagement. After that slight bump in the road, however, the album comes on strong and just keeps coming. Every track is a delight, musicially and lyrically. I do miss Brian Jackson’s electric piano work on these later albums, as he shifted to playing synths almost exclusively at this point aside from some acoustic piano work. Gil’s verse on this album walks the line of acidic social critique and compassionate hopefulness like only he can, from the reflective self-assesments of Willing (NOT the Little Feat song, by the way) or When Push Comes to Shove, to the chilling intonations of 1980 and Shah Mot. In many ways this is a record of an artist growing older in all the positive senses of the word. I hesitate to use the word “maturing” because of its loaded connotations, not least of which is the insinuation that his earlier work was someone naive, which is most definitely was not. It is not as if the revolutionary fire of Gil’s powerful mind is in retreat here, but he has more moments of repose, and spins more narratives of a more personal and intimate nature – a stylist change that had begun with 1977’s Bridges, at least in my ears. Gil leaves us with a light-hearted tune about the trials of getting your inspiration down on paper before it leaves you, a nice way to close the album on the upbeat.
Of course, the resident expert and guru of Gil Scott-Heron in the “blogosphere” has to be Simon at Never Enough Rhodes, who has more amazing material than you can shake a stick at. His write-ups have always been an inspiration for me to try harder, incidentally, as it is blogs like his that set the standard for the possibilities of the format. It appears there has been some trouble with the links of some of the rarities he has over there, but I highly encourage people to check them out regardless of this as his work is a labor of love.
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – 1980 in 320 kbs em pee tree
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – 1980 in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO format
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