After a huge back-catalogue of 13 albums from 1970-82 and a further 2 albums in 1994 and 2010 before his death in 2011, Nothing New completes a trilogy of records that were recorded in New York between 2005 and 2009. Cleverly labelled Nothing New, the album is a collection of what producer Richard Russell calls “some of Gil’s best (but not necessarily best known) songs” stripped down to just the haunting, raspy vocals and piano playing of Gil Scott-Heron.
As soon as you begin the joyful listening experience of the raw piano and vocals, it immediately enchants you in the musical genius of this iconic artist. The slurred and gravelly nature of Gil’s vocals make the record feel very sincere as the album is not awash with gimmicks of over-production. Each song was selected from a different album of Gil’s and it sends you on a journey through his back-catalogue of music whilst seamlessly blending in with one another. For every other song there are clips of Russell’s conversation with Gil Scott-Heron throughout the recording sessions. These short clips of Gil’s wise and inspiring snippets of knowledge efficiently break up the album and make it feel incredibly profound and give a slight sense of magic to the whole experience. Some tracks like ‘The Other Side’ will feel like deja vu as it is so similar to the original (although the aged vocal style of an older Gil Scott-Heron is noticeable). ‘Your Daddy Loves You’ is an example of more of a reworked piece as the original is more of a funky soul track; although listening to the ‘Nothing New’ version in a more jazzy vein, it still works just as well.
This album feels not just like a farewell to the man who gave the world of music so much, but a way to let his own music live on in a different light. Many who were fans of his previous works will be delighted with this album and will relish the nostalgia of Gil Scott-Heron’s classic tracks, whilst an audience new to Gil Scott-Heron may discover many hours of fantastic music given this album as a gateway to the legend.
By: Alex Busby