Gil Scott-Heron black and white - the attempt of a review


The day before yesterday the sun rays woke me up. I had almost forgotten that feeling. Remarkable, how differently I behold the world, when her colors shine. Gil Scott-Heron was singing Bridges and Winter in America in my ear all day. Wilhelmsburg is a sad fairyland when the snow still covers the roofs but is already dripping off the branches. I observe anxiously how a girl went on the canal alone and my eyes followed her as she disappeared in the horizon. It looked like a scene from a movie. How unreal movies are. Acutally, why not? I hadn’t been on the ice this year. As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember the last time i was standing on water. Like Jesus. I slowly climbed down, pushed my foot against the ice with a little pressure, to check if it will hold me. I was standing there, on the canal, the snow was sparkling in the sun, the seagulls above me lost some feathers. I collected them. Then I got frightened. Blistering cold was murmuring under me. I quickly went back to the bank and rescued myself on the icephalt.
Yesterday the sun rays woke me up. I had almost forgotten that feeling. Remarkable, how differently I behold the world, when her colors shine. I put on the headphones and stomped through the snow puddles. When leaving the island I float over pink graffitis, past bureau buildings, barracks and bridges. The steeples are far away, the telly tower is disappearing behind the fog, before it the cranes, the port, the containers. Industry-romance. The sun blinds me, I smile. After I was running around Schanze for hours on my grind, doing things that have been waited for the sun to shine so I would finally dedicate myself to them, I was standing in front of a record store. Acutally, why not? It’s been so long that I bought a record. The purple Nike moccasins with the colorful Native American pattern are sold out in my size, luckily/unfortunately. So I go to the counter and ask: do you have the new Gil Scott-Heron? Or the new Sade? Or both?
So I walk out with the Africa edition of Waxpoetics and „I’m new here“.
I don’t want to act as if I am a big vinyl collector. But Waxpoetics had a Fela Kuti edition and there are a few musicians whose albums I buy without reserve – in wax. Not because I am convinced that I will like the album. But because I know it is music.
So after I am on my way home at midnight with bags full of stuff, slip on the icephalt and bruise the whole left side of my body, have a mob of drunken youngsters laughing at me, I get home frostbitten and overtired. All I want is sleeping.
But then I see the bag which says „Schallplatte“. I connected the record player to the speakers and paused for a moment. Wait a sec. This is Gil Scott-Heron.
I cleaned up my room, lit some candles, the Nag Champe incense sticks, fixed some tea and sat on the bed. I carefully opened the wrapper, took the first record out and moved the needle. Let’s go.
I opened the cover, looked at everything and found this:
There is a proper procedure for taking advantage of any investment.
Music, for example. Buying a CD is an investment.
To get the maximum you must
Not in your car or on a portable player through a headset.
Take it home.
Get rid of all distractions, (even him or her).
Turn off your cell phone.
Turn off everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles.
Make yourself comfortable.
Play your CD.
LISTEN all the way through.
Think about what you got.
Think about who would appreciate this investment.
Decide if there is someone to share this with.
Turn it on again.
Enjoy Yourself.
Gil Scott-Heron
28 minutes later it was over.
I haven’t listened to the bonus record yet.
I went to sleep. I dreamt, the pictures were faring black and white in my head, New Yorks streets in the night, dark light, women singing in the background, a dog runs after me, help, the train rattles over my head, hahahahaha, come with me, come on, take another hit. Suddenly my grandparents, their voices, hello, we are here, don’t forget us. The silence of the noise depressed me, I turn, I wake up, ouch, I can’t lay on my left arm.
Here is the video. Or so. Please watch. It won’t affect the train of reading.

Today the sun rays didn’t wake me up. I had almost forgotten that feeling. Remarkable, how differently I behold the world, when everything is gray. I slept until 4 pm. My body hurt, I could barely move. I looked out of the window, colorless scenery.
I fixed myself a tea and put the record on. I was still tired.
Gil Scott-Heron looks tired too. His eyes are closed, lightly. The fingers hold the cigarette at the mouth, he has forgotten to ash off.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
The eyes are still closed. Gil has become old. The beard only has a few dark hairs left. The cover is black white gray. No strong contrast. Just like that, gray. Somehow sorrow overcomes me. Loneliness. Loss. Over.
Somehow so different than else. Somehow right inside him, so personal, so hey I am like this.
I guess the colors represent the crazy Label. I don’t know nothing about the album and its producer from England who visited Gil in prison and signed him and all the covers and so. I just read that. But Gil is new here. And I know that he’s new because he’s old and is here and has always been here and did so much and seen so much and still stagnated but is somehow arriving now. Maybe. Or maybe that’s my interpretation, even if many say, you shouldn’t interpret so much. But I don’t conceive the claim of objectivity, so this is the subjective experience with an album of an artist I love. And I want to admit honestly: I am not an expert and there are many more experienced Gil-Scott Heron lovers. But it’s not about that either. Because everyone listens differently. And everyone sees differently. And everyone feels differently. But it’s still music.
I did not become someone different
That I did not want to be
But I'm new here
Will you show me around
And it may be crazy but I'm
the closest thing I have
To a voice of reason
And you may come full circle
and be new here again
I have always loved Kanye West’s „Flashing Lights“. It is so gloomy and obstrusive. A beautiful frame. I just had never thought of my grandmother when hearing it before. She had more than the 5 senses. And raised everyone she touched just a little bit higher. As though she sensed what the stars say what the birds say, what the wind and the clouds say. A broken home. Or not.
The album is no funky soul record. The video is not an exception from the rest. It is maybe a current summation. A moment of realization. A moment of resigning, of putting up. A moment out of the life of a man who is the prisoner of his demons and grew old with them.
The album is not nostalgic in any way. Not wailing, self-pitying or weak. It is not what one would have expected. Mostly that deters people from buying new albums. You always love an artist for his sound. But I love Gil Scott-Heron for his voice. He will always have her. She rules everything. I have reverence for her. She aged too. Just like grey hair covers the artists face, a certain lisping creeped into his speeking and the voice is raspier. The timbre changed. The nuances are not the same. Some songs sound broken, rough. The experience makes itself heard in the body. I am here. I leave my mark.
The aftertaste is dingy. Divert beats, minatory dubstep basses, enormous electro-influences, word on drums on word on drums, remainders of gospel and blues, but everything mainly dark, gloomy, night, ghastly warped, come hell or high water!
Everything is simpler, not so fancy, and therefore so intense. Inhale and boom.
I don’t want it to sound like it is an act of overcoming the past, caught in 28 minutes. I don’t dare interpreting that. I want to say that it sounds mature but also lonely and longing.
In this album there are no paroles, no hollered messages to the world, no socio-political phrases. Not saying he isn’t socio-political. You are or you’re not. He is, and always is. In every move. In every thought. But this album is no typical message to the messengers. It is his most personal and private album and somehow I feel bashful to listen to it.
In between the songs he sprinkles, like little flashing lights of realily, interludes, short anecdotes, memories, thoughts. Words. Sound.
I could present every song by itself. Or say which ones I like the best and which one i like the least, but i don’t even look at this album as a collection of seperated pieces. It’s a 28 minute track. A review of an album. A record. One flow. One says, this makes albums timeless, right?
And even though producingwise, this album is somehow adapted to today’s music style, Scott-Herons voice drowns out every fashion. And even if the album may sound so new, it sounds very old. And even if, at first sight, you could think that “I’m new here” is called like that because Gil Scott-Heron is on new terrain in the music world, he has this potion to detach himself from time and space. And simultaneously be so deeply inside of it.
He brings himself back. And the concept is fantastic.
A question: coming from a broken home?
A lifestory. Family. Fear. Women. Experience. Love. Home. Parents. Children.
An answer: to me it was not a broken home. Even if they’d call it like that. We did not.
A beat. A frame. Breathe in. Breathe out. Ashes fall by themselves.
I did not become someone different
That I did not want to be
But I'm new here
Will you show me around
And it may be crazy but I'm
the closest thing I have
To a voice of reason
And you may come full circle
and be new here again

Standing in the ruins of another black mans life
or flying through the valley
separating day and night
I am am Death,
cried the Vulture,
for the people of the light
Caron brought his raft
from the sea that sails on souls
and I saw the scavenger departing
taking warm hearts to the cold
he knew the ghetto was a haven
for the meanest creature ever known
in a wilderness of heart break
in a desert of despair
Evil's clarion of justice
shrieks a cry of naked terror
taking babies from their mamas
leaving grief beyond compare
so if you see the vulture coming
flying circles in your mind
remember their is no escaping
for he will follow close behind
only promise me a battle
a battle
for your soul and mind
and mine
and mine