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Gil Scott-Heron Winter In America Review

Album. Released 1974.  

BBC Review

Scott-Heron at his most compelling.

Daryl Easlea 2009

Winter In America was poet and writer Gil Scott Heron's fourth album, and the first to be co-billed with his flautist, keyboard player and co-writer Brian Jackson.

Recorded in September 1973 and released the following year, it captures Scott Heron at a turning point, largely leaving his heavier raps behind in favour of a floating ambience, with his poetry and song being illuminated by Jackson's superb instrumentation.

Rivers Of My Fathers is a marvellous, meandering work that ebbs and flows for eight and a half minutes; Scott-Heron's spoken utterance of ''Africa'' at the end chimes with the afro-centricity of the early 70s, and is conveyed great emotion and honesty.

The album's commercial centrepiece, The Bottle, is one of the most exuberant catalogues of ghetto alcoholism ever committed to tape. It truly struck a chord and has been much loved as well as covered by artists as diverse as Joe Bataan and Paul Weller. There is sweet and personal content here, too. A Very Precious Time is a reverie of adolescent reminiscence and the sweetness of Your Daddy Loves You shows that not all revolutionaries could be on the frontline permanently.

However, Scott-Heron had not abandoned his militant, witty, political poetic roots on H20Gate Blues, dedicated to the then-recently departed US Vice President Spiro Agnew. The title track wasn't on the original album, but a live version has been subsequently added to the reissue. It is should be played as standard on all modern history courses as a snapshot of the stilted hopes and aspirations in the post Watergate and Vietnam War mid 70s America.

Winter In America is probably Scott-Heron's most complete album. It certainly is one of his most compelling; it also highlights how great a foil Brian Jackson was to him. An affecting work.

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