Scott-heron's Final Album for the Arista Label was Finally Delivered after an Intense Touring Schedule in 1982. The Death of Bob Marley Obviously Affected Him Deeply, as Reggae Music and Much of Marley's Philosophy Pervades the Grooves Here. His Focus is More a Personal One Than a Political One Here, Especially Evident on the Final Track "Black History/The World".
A more furious and funk driven album than the previous in many ways it starts out in the vein with "Fast Lane" and keeps going from there. Weather dealing with economy in "Blue Collar",the capital and Gil's adopted city in "Washington DC" or just inner confusion itself with "Explainations" you can also see how there's a certain dizzying paranoia developing that even Gil finds tough to endure. Probably relates to the album title in many ways. "No Exit" and "Ready Or Not" are yet two more reggae numbers. By this point it does seem somewhat trendy but still he keeps the self-ethnicity involved by keeping the message in the music in both cases. "Black History/The World" is a fantastic closer and a great hard grooving prequel to "B-Movie" to a degree. Here we find "black history" itself as told by someone right from the source,stating how the exploitation of the black/African culture extends back to the years just before the slave trade. Not only that but it correctly points out how much racism is fueled by fear of foreign cultural standards and pleas to it's listener for "world peace" between those who are different over...world exploitation.
Not only was this the final Gil Scott Heron album of the 80's decade but this was also the end of an era as well. Following this album any music in the R&B/funk/jazz vein began to grow swiftly away from social commentary and a broad world view. The music became decidedly de-politized,expressing these viewpoints now largely only through sloganeering or witty irony. The type of direct dialog with the listener and the people people such as Gil Scott represented was simply not as wanted anymore. And even on the love song front you would never see this guy stoop to de-intellectualizing that aspect of his music either. So keeping his black power era "millitant" persona up,both physically and musically to the very end here we see how the title of the album again has a double meaning. He knows the days for his type of artist is very numbered and intends to draw every last drop he can out of that creative fountain. And even though there are probably even a few Gil Scott Heron fans who aren't particularly aware of this album it's certainly one of the most thoroughly funky,both in music and spirit than just about any of the minor combacks he'd make following this.
Admittedly, it starts off reasonably enough-- "Fast Lane" is a decent funk piece with some nice slap bass from Robert Gordon (the star of this record) and a fierce solos from guitarist Ed Brady and alto saxophonist Vernon James. This is followed by the great "Washington D.C.", a slow groove and a nice lambast at the sides of life in the nation's capital, but after that, it starts to fizzle.
The album slides between a few dull pieces ("No Exit", "Ready or Not") that don't feel to really go anywhere, and while "Blue Collar" is a work of lyrical genius, it doesn't have much going on musically. The closing track, "Black History / The World" blends a spoken word piece with a funky piece and works out to be a nice enough performance, but you get the impression both would have been served better by being split.
What it comes down to-- there's better places to look for Scott-Heron's music. If you're a fan, this is worth getting-- it's got enough good stuff on it, but newcomers should probably start with "From South Africa to South Carolina" or "Pieces of a Man".