Search - Gil Scott-Heron :: Spirits

Gil Scott-Heron
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Rap & Hip-Hop, R&B
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1

On this 1994 release, his first new recording in more than 10 years, Gil Scott-Heron revives all the phases of his career. He turns to biting social commentary on "Message to the Messengers," a diatribe about antisocial, o...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Gil Scott-Heron
Title: Spirits
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Tvt
Release Date: 3/29/1994
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Rap & Hip-Hop, R&B
Styles: Jazz Fusion, Vocal Jazz, Poetry, Spoken Word & Interviews, Vocal Pop, Old School, Pop Rap
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 016581431027, 016581430242, 731452341723

On this 1994 release, his first new recording in more than 10 years, Gil Scott-Heron revives all the phases of his career. He turns to biting social commentary on "Message to the Messengers," a diatribe about antisocial, often nihilistic trends in hip-hop; then, on "Work for Peace," he critiques American militarism with a particular focus on the Gulf War, offering the tidbit, "The military and the monetary / Get together whenever it's necessary / Turning our brothers and sisters into mercenaries / They are turning the planet into a cemetery." The title track and "Don't Give Up" (which was produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest) recall Scott-Heron jazz-funk classics like "Lady Day and John Coltrane." The singer-poet also does a savvy updating of his 1974 hit "The Bottle," interpolating it into a three-part suite called "The Other Side," which features affecting guitar and keyboard solos. Unlike many of Scott-Heron's live shows, which are laden with nostalgia, this release looks back and ahead with equal power. --Martin Johnson

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CD Reviews

A melancholy Gil- Scott Heron
williedynamite | 08/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Definetely not his best work but not awful by any stretch. Spirits was the first album by GSH on the TVT label and the first studio album from him in years.? Fans of Gil Scott's firey, angry poerty will be suprised at the fact that Spirits contains none of the youthful angry exuberrence from many of his other albums. But what is here is a more exprienced somber, reflective Gil. Gill sings mostly on Spirits. But there is some of his tradmark social commentary in the form of poems. The first track Message to the messengers he sounds as if he's passing the torch of performance poetry to todays rappers. On it he instructs and chides them on how to become a messenger. The last track work for peace gives us a down beat Gil Scott as he breaks down the military. The almost heartbreaking Give her a call is especially reflective. he laments on his mistakes with the opposite sex. On the albums center piece The other side is a three part 15 minute extremely musical ode to his strugle quitting drugs that start off almost sleepily and ends with a cresendo of Gil's wailing that he might never come home again. It's probably one of his best songs. Overall this probably isn't the album for first time GSH fans but definetely a great one for hardcore fans."
Fine return to form
Pieter | Johannesburg | 07/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

This 1994 album was Scott Heron's first release of original music after an absence of ten years. Spirits is an album of mostly intimate music in his inimitable style that is a seamless bend of jazz, soul and intelligent rap. Standout tracks include the jazzy title track, the gentle soul song Give Her A Call and The Other Side, an impressive 3-part suite with tempo changes, brilliant instrumental solos and delicious funky sections. With its poetic lyrics, Work For Peace is a great rap number, whilst Don't Give Up is another mellow track with great melody and vocals. Spirits was a welcome return for the original rapper in the 1990s.
Message from the Messenger.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 02/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In 1994, Gil Scott-Heron had not released a studio album in over a decade since by dropped by Arista in the 1980s. A lot had happened since then-- Gil Scott-Heron's musical children had gained in popularity and it seemed the so-called godfather of rap felt it was time to reassert himself.

What's remarkable is that his neither his songwriting nor his performing abilities have deteriorated-- embracing his many sounds of hte past (with many of his old cohorts alongside him including Malcolm Cecil, Brian Jackson and Ron Holloway), Scott-Heron opens the album tackling his children-- "Message to the Messengers" is a cautionary message to the rappers, delivered in spoken word over a looped spoken rhythmic figure, thumping bass, and hip hop beat. Quite honestly, it's powerful stuff, and it sets the stage for the rest of the record.

Scott-Heron proves remarkably diverse-- tackling Coltrane (proviing lyrics for "Spirits", which gets a rip roaring performance and a real highlight for Holloway), smokey r&b ("Give Her a Call") and his own jazz infused roots ("Don't Give Up"). Along the way, he brings forth a Christmas prayer as moving as anything I've ever heard ("Spirits Past") and provides a frighteningly relevent spoken word piece concerning the military industrial complex on "Work For Peace", with rhythms provided by Ali Shaheed Muhammed of A Tribe Called Quest.

But with all this, the centerpiece of the album is an extended remake (nearly 20 minutes) of "Home is Where the Hatred Is", retitled "The Other Side". A meditation on drug addiction, it provides a remarkably passionate, powerful, beautiful and horrible presentation of a man gripped by drug addiction. Scott-Heron's vocal is so powerful, given his recent troubles one can't help but wonder how autobiographical it is.

Bottom line-- there's no shortage of brilliance on this record. Comebacks are often embarassing, but this one stands up among the best of his work. It's only a pity Scott-Heron can't seem to get it together enough to release a followup. In today's political climate, "Spirits" proves as relevent as any piece written in the intervening twelve years, and it stands as a critical part of the legacy of a giant. Highly recommended."