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CD Review: Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"

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On the back of the booklet in Gil Scott-Herons Im New Here CD is a message. The message reads as follows:

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 listen to it for the first time under optimum conditions. Not in your car or on a portable player through a headset. Take it home. Get rid of all distractions (even her or him). 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.

So, thats what Ive done. I decided within the first couple of listens that there were people I wanted to share this listening experience with (both by telling them about it directly and by writing a review of it). However, as with any music I find myself emotionally affected by, I found myself not quite knowing what to say about Im New Here, especially since it doesnt fit into the standard popular music framework. What I can say is that its one of the most honest, personal albums Ive listened to in quite some time, and it makes me want to explore more music from this artist more than the handful of songs on a best-of compilation that Im already familiar with.

A little background info, first: Gil Scott-Heron is one of those artists who has never been a big record-seller, but his influence on music far outweighs sales figures. The singer/spoken-word artists jazz & funk-inflected, politically charged music provided a rallying point for Black folks in the Seventies and was a direct influence on the hip-hop generation: its hard to imagine there being a Public Enemy or a Common or even a Kanye West without Gil Scott-Heron.

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