GIL SCOTT-HERON AND BRIAN JACKSON: ‘Bridges’ (Label: Soul Brother)

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Gil Scott-Heron’s collaborations with his old college buddy, keyboard player Brian Jackson, yielded some wonderful albums in the 1970s – like ‘Winter In America,’ ‘Midnight Band: The First Minute Of A New Day,’ ‘From South Africa To Carolina’ and ‘It’s Your World.’ All those titles have been out on CD for some time but inexplicably, the duo’s 1977 long player, ‘Bridges’ – which, with its travelogue theme, is undoubtedly one of their most consistent and cohesive offerings – has only been reissued briefly in Japan. Now, however, the 9-track album originally released on Clive Davis’ Arista label (incidentally, Scott-Heron and Jackson were the first musicians to sign to Arista) is available via the redoubtable Soul Brother label, the small Putney-based company dedicated to soul and jazz that put out the Scott-Heron/Jackson compendium ‘Messages’ a couple of years ago. Even casual GSH fans not familiar with this particular album will probably know some of the cuts contained here – for example, ‘Hello Sunday! Hello Road!’ and ‘Racetrack In France’ have both appeared on several GSH compilations, as has the brilliant ‘We Almost Lost Detroit,’ a cautionary tale about the potential perils of nuclear power-plant meltdowns. Less celebrated but well worth being singled out for praise is the strangely-titled ‘Vildgolia (Deaf, Dumb & Blind),’ a mellow and mesmeric jazz-funk groove about an imaginary world. Listen out for some great horn charts. The funk quotient is increased on the more frenetic ‘Under The Hammer,’ a song about the pressures of touring on the road, which boasts an infectious chanted chorus. ‘Delta Man (Where I’m Coming From)’ is another great track, featuring an opening spoken monologue by GSH and thoughtful lyrics about change that are underpinned by soft, jazzy chords and a languid groove from Brian Jackson. The album’s closer, ’95 South (All Of The Places We’ve Been),’ is also very appealing; slightly melancholy and wistful, it shows the softer, more romantic, side of GSH – as, indeed, does the whole album, which is a must-own for anyone who’s interested in the work of the singer/songwriter who started out as a novelist and jazz poet. If this takes your fancy, also look out for Soul Brother’s reissue of Gil Scott-Heron’s and Brian Jackson’s neglected 1978 album, ‘Secrets.’
(CW) 4/5