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From Africa to South Carolina

1975

Mar 20, 2023

Vinyl - Minimum Bid: $95

From Africa to South Carolina is a studio album by the American vocalist Gil Scott-Heron and the keyboardist Brian Jackson. It was released in November 1975 by Arista Records. Scott-Heron performed "Johannesburg" and "A Lovely Day" on Saturday Night Live in December 1975


The mid 1970s was an extraordinary period for Gil Scott-Heron, peaking in my assessment with "From South Africa to South Carolina". Having established his reputation as politically aggressive and relevant on his Flying Dutchman recordings and cooled off on "Winter in America", Scott-Heron and musical partner Brian Jackson assembled "The Midnight Band" for "The First Minute of the New Day". The band stayed intact for "From South Africa to South Carolina", and the strength of familiarity shows.


Perhaps the most notable is the ability for the three vocalists-- Scott-Heron, Jackson and Victor Brown, to harmonize together. Two and three part harmonies rise and fall together, with Scott-Heron's baritone, Brown's high tenor, and Jackson somewhere in between blending into a fantastic mix. Below then, Jackson leads the band from the piano, joined by reedman Bilal Sunni Ali, bassist Danny Bowens, drummer Bob Adams and percussionists Charlie Saunders, Barnett Williams, and Adenola. On 'First Minute', it felt like Bownes was the dominant voice, head and shoulders the most unique and sticking out-- now the band works together in a stronger fashion and provides a superb framework, performing ably in jazz, blues, funk and rock forms.


Scott-Heron again tackles a number of topics in various atmospheres, from the then under-documented apartheid in South Africa (the superb funk of "Johannesburg") to toxic waste ("South Carolina"), from optimistic laments ("Beginnings", with an absolutely stunning three part harmony) to a touch of pure hopefulness (the simply fantastic "A Lovely Day").


The reissue augments the recording with a trio of live tracks-- fantastic readings of "South Carolina", "Johannesburg" and "Save the Children" (from "Pieces of a Man", several years earlier) and the anti-apartheid benefit piece "Let Me See Your I.D.", featuring Scott-Heron prominently amid a number of rappers and the trumpet of Miles Davis. The recording is also remastered and sounds fantastic.


This may be the best of Scott-Heron's catalog-- it all came together, the political vibe, the funky jazz aesthetic, they don't really get better than this. Highly recommended.

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