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Spirits

1994

Red Vinyl - Sealed - Minimum Bid: $140

Spirits is the 1994 album by Gil Scott-Heron. The title track is an interpretation of the John Coltrane piece Equinox, and "The Other Side" is a live version of Scott-Heron's 1971 track "Home is Where the Hatred Is" with a new arrangement and many new verses that expand the original to nearly twenty minutes. It was later sampled for "Home" on the 2011 Jamie XX collaboration album, We're New Here.

In the liner notes, Scott-Heron discusses the new, jazzier tone of the record, and the attempts to define his sound:

What do you call reggae, blues, African vibration, jazz, salsa, chants and poetry?... Seriously trying to define it, I've said it's Black music. Or Black American music. Because Black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we've come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us.

This was Scott-Heron's first album in twelve years, and it would be sixteen more years before he would release another. "Lady's Song" and "Work for Peace" were omitted from the vinyl issue, while other songs were edited slightly for runtime.


On this 1994 release, his first new recording in more than 10 years, Gil Scott-Heron revives all the phases of his career. He turns to biting social commentary on "Message to the Messengers," a diatribe about antisocial, often nihilistic trends in hip-hop; then, on "Work for Peace," he critiques American militarism with a particular focus on the Gulf War, offering the tidbit, "The military and the monetary / Get together whenever it's necessary / Turning our brothers and sisters into mercenaries / They are turning the planet into a cemetery."


The title track and "Don't Give Up" (which was produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest) recall Scott-Heron jazz-funk classics like "Lady Day and John Coltrane." The singer-poet also does a savvy updating of his 1974 hit "The Bottle," interpolating it into a three-part suite called "The Other Side," which features affecting guitar and keyboard solos. Unlike many of Scott-Heron's live shows, which are laden with nostalgia, this release looks back and ahead with equal power. --Martin Johnson

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