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4.3 out of 5 stars49
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 4 January 2010
When Spirits came out it seemed a real comeback - a more stripped down, back to basics (jazz) sound. It was good to hear a GSH album like the earlier ones without the drawn out, overfunked sound of some of the 80's albums. For some reason though he never seemed to play most of the songs of this album in concert.

I never thought it'd be 15 years til his next album and the last few years I never thought there would be a new album at all.

'I'm New Here' is a brutal, stark, blast of an album. Like hearing a dead man's last record. I was reminded of American Prayer - there is a ghostly poetry to GSH's vocals here. An aural 'Blood Simple'. Some may not be so keen on this somewhat filmic, voice over, indie style of record, but I think it's an excellent route for GSH in his later years. The aging icon as a source of pre-death wisdom, like Johnny Cash on his American albums.

There are not many musical legends still recording. Gil Scott-heron is undoubtedly one of them and this is a brilliant record for a new decade.
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on 15 May 2010
The two bookends on this album are 'on coming from a broken home', a poignant and reflective tribute to Gil's Grandmother, which set the tone for this most personal of his albums. There is no 'The Revolution ...', 'B-Movies' or 'H2O gate blues', but the LP is no less political for that ... in a society where young black men are more likely to go to prison than to university, and where conservative rhetoric about 'broken homes' [or 'broken Britain' for that matter] crudely pathologises a complex mixture of economics, social pressure, continuing racism, existential striving, resistance and gender politics. The second bookend of the two defiantly reframes that situation as a struggle for survival: a pursuit of happiness, even.

In the 80s, Gil Scott-Heron was a lodestar in a fairly fluffy musical world, articulating with great humour and precision the concerns that many of us had in trying to make our way through life in the Reagan and Thatcher era. His voice is more battered now, more cracked in every way, but the insight and humour is still there - only ploughing a more visceral furrow.

The other pivotal track on this album is the exceptional 'Me and the Devil', where Gill channels the crossroads spirit of Robert Johnson and describes his own pact with the devil. It is this tornado which whirls through the rest of the album, magnificently underpinned by a wholly appropriate blend of deep blues and techno dramatics: hair-raising stuff on the track itself. Whether gently introspective, defiant, chaotically cut-up, the CD is a meditation on that diabolic pact, and Gil's personal jihad to reclaim himself and find a sort of redemption.

The bookends balance out that human tornado, humanise, soften and contextualise and externalise it, take it beyond himself. The grandmother we met years ago in 'Grandma's Hands' [another great G S-H cover] is there as a loving, tough, presiding spirit. Mending what seemed to be broken. This is 28 minutes of powerful medicine: an album, and not just a collection of songs.
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Once upon a time Gil Scott Heron was a dangerous man.
A visionary, brave and inspirationally dangerous man.

Having listened to 'I'm New Here' three times I put
on my 1971 vinyl copy of 'Pieces Of A Man' (it's more
than a bit scratchy and jumpy now!) to remind myself
of just how much of an iconoclast he was. Unafraid to
challenge the very foundations of enduring inequality
under Richard Nixon's tainted kingdom of deceit and lies,
his contribution to the development of black musical
culture and its relationship to political challenge and
progress was both fearless and uplifting in equal measure.

'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' still packs one
hell of a punch. A heroically scathing cris de coeur.

The last decade seems not to have been a walk in the park
for Mr Scott-Heron but here he is once again with a fine
collection of new songs, interspersed with reflective
poetic interludes. Short and sweet and very moving in
its austerely focussed intensity.

The voice still commands attention. Deeper now and more
than a little rough around the edges but still a unique
instrument with an incalculable ability to communicate
raw emotion and uncomfortable truths.

The contrast between the terrifyingly dark imagery of
'Me and The Devil' and the sweet and tender blues of
'I'll Take Care Of You' could not be greater.
This is a reflection of one of his greatest strengths
as a songwriter and performer : the ability to juggle
hope and despair and to survive the differences.

The stripped down incantation 'New York Is Killing Me',
with its eerily disembodied electronics, crackling and
chaotic percussion and fierce gospel harmonies is as
good as anything he has recorded in his long career.

The siesmic rhythmic pulse accompanying the
distorted vocal treatment of 'The Crutch' creates
a unique soundscape within which the stark lyrics
deliver an almost Biblically apocalyptic wallop!

Richard Russell's uncompromising production brings
great understanding and dignity to Mr Scott-Heron's
fragile but undiminished powers.

The flame still burns brightly!

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on 12 May 2010
Those who have given this album a bad review just don't get it. Of course it's not like his other albums. Of course it is very different. GSH is an artist in the true sense of the word, and he has moved on from his previous incarnations. The man has spent alot of his adult life on drugs and some of it in jail, and he is reflecting on the consequences of this as well as the debt he owes to the women (the strong women) in his life. He is in his sixties now and has a different perspective from the young fire brand who wrote Whitey On The Moon. But make no mistake, this is an important work. It is both challenging, moving and profound. My only criticism, if you can call it a criticism, is that it is very short. But sometimes you can say all you need to say in 28 minutes.
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on 7 March 2010
This is moving, dignified, intimate music, more personal than political - music by a great artist who still has something to say. Indeed two or three songs on this superb album would make it onto my dream "Best of Gil Scott-Heron".

The things you remember most about most of Gil's work are the intelligent, witty lyrics. While this album displays moments of lyrical invention, his greatest strengths on this album are his performances, particularly of other artist's songs. These have been helped by time (and some hard living) dumping a truckload of gravel into Gil's voice. I have heard few more moving declarations than Gil's reading of "I'll Take Care Of You". Robert Johnson's preternaturally scary "Me And The Devil" is rarely covered, but Gil's synth-backed reading stands comparison with the great Delta bluesman. Indeed, if you take the view that the blues is a sensibility rather than a conventional form (with its arteries hardened by unimaginative artists and audiences), then this is perhaps the greatest blues album since Muddy Waters walked the Earth.

This is a short album, operating at its fighting weight and mercifully free from the filler that spoils so many records. Interspersed with short, thoughtful interludes, the songs come in, do their stuff and then slide out without over-staying their welcome.

A joy.
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on 8 February 2010
If your looking for quality not quantity
then this is for you.
Yet another 5 star album from Gil. Equally as good as his best CD's from the 70's.
It gets better with every listen and it was excellent to start with.
If it's quantity your after at 28 mins running time then its not for you!
Glad he's back its been a long wait since his last album.
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on 8 February 2010
I reviewed the album under CD, but, having bought vinyl and CD, I would strongly advise getting the record. The bonus disc is terrific - throaty, soulful versions of 'Home is Where the Hatred is' and 'Winter in America'. In the introduction to the latter, GSH, has a message to the messengers about fitting music and lyrics. Any GSH fan will want these 'live studio versions.' I don't know whether they are available or will be available in other formats, but great to have.

The record is also beautifully designed, with extra photos, nice thick sleeve. I know...these are trivial, consumerist features, but, come on, half the fun of the record is to lovingly caress the sleeve and pour over it, like it was a religious artifact.

See you at the Festival Hall!
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on 22 August 2010
On this album, Gil has gone back to a more spoken-word style but this time using minimalist electronic sounds rather than percusion. There are a few jazz-influenced tracks but anyone expecting several 'Lady Dane' or 'Hello Sunday' tracks will be disappointed. However, as someone who loves Gil's mellowed vocal delivery, I have really grown to love this album. It's openess and frankness about his life and how he's conducted it, is a real joy to listen through (which doesn't take long.) Very few orignal GSH song compositions but the use of other people's or older materials ('The Vulture') makes the points he wants to make. The self-acknowledging laugh after he admits "If you've gotta pay for things that you've done wrong.... I've got a big bill coming" seems to finally indicate a man coming to peace with himself.
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on 9 February 2010
For years many of us believed that Gils social and economic commentary was just that . What has become all too evident in the subsequent years is that Gil also lived it . This record sort of exemplifies this . As ever , Gil is difficult to categorize musically but it is Gil the man that we are looking at here . Lyrically you get the impression that this musical genius would probably not be the easiest company but isn't that what we would want ?
Musically , the stripped down nature of this more than welcome return generally works . Although some of the arrangements verge on darkish Depeche Mode with Gils voice still able to come to the rescue . Great to have you back Gil .
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on 14 February 2010
This will go down as a contender for best (coolest) album of the coming decade. Imagine the coolest guy singing and narrating over the music on Massive Attacks Mezzanine album then times it by five, this is that album. Stunning version of Smog's I'm New Here as the title track. Just amazingly good, you need it! (Hey Amazon, iTunes have a five minute "making of" video on their album.....)
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