“A New Black Poet - Small Talk At 125th And Lenox” by Gil Scott-Heron - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1970Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

“A New Black Poet” proclaims the sleeve headline, missing a trick. “The Birth Of Rap” now that would have been a headline. For his debut LP, the 20-year-old rapper / poet / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist recreated an intimate live performance set-up in the studio, and played in front of a small audience, presumably friends who were invited along. Performing were: Gil Scott-Heron (guitar, piano, vocals), David Barnes (percussion, vocals), Charlie Saunders (congas) and Eddie Knowles (congas). The sleeve notes give a flavour of the man and his mind:

Gil Scott-Heron takes you Inside Black. Inside, where the anger burns against the ones who “broke my family tree.” Inside, where the black man sorts his miseries “while white men walk on stars.” He penetrates to the core, where, blurred by the “plastic patterns” of a culture not his own, dulled by drugs, or held down by unremitting poverty, the black’s rage smolders, ready to flare into riot. In Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, Gil Scott-Heron, twenty-year-old poet, speaks for his people with an eloquence that has won him recognition as a major new talent. His is the voice of the new black man, rebellious and proud, demanding to be heard, announcing his destiny: “I AM COMING!”

All the best action happens on side one, kicking off with the excellent “Introduction / The Revolution Will Not Be Televised [live ’70]” where the message is clear - do not get lost in the debilitating stupor of pop culture frivolity; wake up and smell the coffee, there's corruption all around and it's working against you, get active. Brothers and sisters, there will be no highlights on the 11 o'clock news, the revolution will be live.

Comment #1” is dissertation-deep, and I couldn't even begin to do it justice in my bite-sized album reviews. Basically, Scott-Heron touches on all sorts of issues concerning the Black Power revolution and comes out shooting from the hip from a number of different angles. White students joining the cause under some sort of strategic alliance is a big no-no for GSH: “The irony of it all, of course is when a pale face SDS motherfucker dares look hurt when I tell him to go find his own revolution. He wonders why I tell him that America’s revolution will not be the melting pot but the toilet bowl. He is fighting for legalized smoke, or lower voting age; less lip from his generation gap and fucking in the street. Where is my parallel to that? All I want is a good home and a wife and a children, and some food to feed them every night.” Ouch. Even the holy church is not spared: “And the new word to have is revolution, People don’t even want to hear the preacher spill or spiel, Because God’s whole card has been thoroughly piqued, And America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey”. The man's on fire; there's never a dull moment in his razor-sharp, super-opinionated diatribe.

In “The Subject Was Faggots” big mouth is at it again, and this time scores an own goal. It's a description of some sort of a gay ball where there are “Misses and miseries and miscellaneous misfits” who are “giggling and grinning and prancing and shit”. What an intellectual, eh?

Gil's at it again with the casual racism on “Whitey On The Moon”, although he makes a fair point on economics; the space programme is all very well but what about healthcare for the people? “A rat done bit my sister Nell (with Whitey on the moon), Her face and arms began to swell (and Whitey's on the moon), I can't pay no doctor bill (but Whitey's on the moon), Ten years from now I'll be payin' still (while Whitey's on the moon)”.

For the hundreds of years of oppression against the black man, Gil has revenge on his mind in the thoroughly nasty “Enough”: “Imagine your nightmares of my sneaking into a veiled or satin bedroom, And attacking your daughter, wife and mother, at once, Ripping open their bowels sexually like a wishbone, Imagine that and magnify it a million times, When you realize that the blinders have been stripped from my eyes, And I realize that slavery was no smiling, happy fizzies party… Look over your shoulder motherfucker, I am coming”.

Scott-Heron's debut veers from the clumsy to the distasteful to the brilliant; it's an uncomfortable listen from start to finish, and not one for the easily offended.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:17] 8.7.png Gil Scott-Heron - Introduction / The Revolution Will Not Be Televised [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
A2 [01:45] 7.0.png Gil Scott-Heron - Omen [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
A3 [02:35] 7.0.png Gil Scott-Heron - Brother [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
A4 [04:26] 8.8.png Gil Scott-Heron - Comment #1 [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
A5 [01:20] 7.2.png Gil Scott-Heron - Small Talk At 125th & Lenox [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
A6 [03:10] 4.7.png Gil Scott-Heron - The Subject Was Faggots [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
A7 [03:20] 6.2.png Gil Scott-Heron - Evolution (And Flashback) [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
B1 [02:50] 5.7.png Gil Scott-Heron - Plastic Pattern People [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
B2 [02:57] 5.6.png Gil Scott-Heron - Whitey On The Moon [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
B3 [02:00] 6.4.png Gil Scott-Heron - The Vulture [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
B4 [08:37] 5.7.png Gil Scott-Heron - Enough [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Hip Hop / Rap
B5 [00:30] 5.3.png Gil Scott-Heron - Paint It Black [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Poetry
B6 [04:20] 5.5.png Gil Scott-Heron - Who’ll Pay Reparations On My Soul? [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Soul
B7 [04:20] 5.2.png Gil Scott-Heron - Everyday [live ’70] (Gil Scott-Heron) Soul

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