Reissue CDs Weekly: Gil Scott-Heron, K.T. Oslin, Motorpsycho, Feeling High | New music reviews, news & interviews
Reissue CDs Weekly: Gil Scott-Heron, K.T. Oslin, Motorpsycho, Feeling High
The early days of a polymathic pioneer, country from the Nineties, influential Norwegians and the psychedelic sound of Memphis
This fine box set has a cuckoo in its nest which has to be dealt with instantly. Like Eric Clapton’s 1976 declaration of support for Enoch Powell, Scott-Heron’s “The Subject Was Faggots” is a blot that’s hard to erase from a career otherwise marked by inclusivity. “Giggling and grinning and prancing and shit… faggots who were balling because they couldn't get their balls inside the faggot hall,” is how it goes, with Scott-Heron plumping for “he, she or it” as his favoured signifier. Yeah, times were different, the mores of the past a foreign country and the now-deceased Heron a contrarian commentator meeting things head on. It’s still puerile, offensive and undermines his stance on racism.
So full marks to BGP in not rewriting this part of Scott-Heron’s history by excising this particular performance from this three-CD set of the complete recordings from 1970 to 1971, a defining era in his career. The released material was originally spread across three albums and is supplemented here by a full, previously unheard alternate version of Free Will and a stack of tracks recorded as collaborations. The material has been resequenced, rather than following the original releases. The first disc is titled “songs”, the second “poetry, jazz and blues”. The third contains the unreleased material. It makes for a cohesive listen, highlighting consistencies and strengths that weren’t previously readily evident. Of course, the compilers could be accused of spoon feeding, but that misses the point when this set is designed to show Heron in the strongest possible light.
“The Revolution Will Not be Televised” is now familiar, as are the arguments for Scott-Heron the polymath as an originator of rap, alongside The Last Poets. That overshadows what this set draws out. When he wanted to be, Scott-Heron could be a soul stylist on the Marvin Gaye level. The lyrics on the first disc are acerbic and pointed, but his singing and the music are terrifically elegant. At its wildest reaches, the jazz-poetry of the second disc places Scott-Heron as the angry, racial-tension-aware offspring of Lord Buckley. The Beat Generation isn’t far. With the unreleased tracks as the icing, this challenging, well-packaged set - with its erudite book and pin-sharp mastering – is to be prized.
K.T. Oslin: Love in a Small Town & My Roots Are Showing
K.T. Oslin's 1987 hit “80’s Ladies” was an important benchmark in American country. Although working as both a singer and songwriter from the mid Sixties, it was her first mainstream success. Significantly, she was in her 40s and singing of a life – and to an audience – that was largely ignored by the music business: women with experience of life who were getting older. This perfunctory two-on-one CD collects 1990’s Love in a Small Town, the set which followed the success of “80’s Ladies” namesake parent album, and 1996’s My Roots Are Showing, made after she had heart surgery in 1995. Song-wise Love in a Small Town has nothing at all wrong with it. Thematically it tackles its set topic head on, and the vocals are direct and heartfelt. A cover of “Love is Strange” is passion filled. But the Eighties hangover production – gloss and synths - is hard to get past. Even so, it is country as country, not the pop country has become. My Roots Are Showing is a collection of covers designed to show where Oslin was coming from. Investigate, but beware the smoothness cloaking Love in a Small Town.
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