Gil Scott-Heron’s “Nothing New,” a posthumous album of previously unreleased performances, which includes stripped-down new versions of some of his greatest songs, will be released by XL Recordings on 12-inch vinyl in a limited edition of 3,000 copies on Record Store Day, April 19.
The announcement was made yesterday on what would have been the influential soul/jazz poet, musician and author’s 65th birthday. Scott-Heron passed away on May 27, 2011, at the age of 62 from undisclosed causes, though he had been diagnosed as HIV positive and had previously been hospitalized for pneumonia.
The new recordings were made with producer Richard Russell during the 2008 “I’m New Here” sessions at New York’s Looking Glass studios. Accompanying himself on piano with no overdubs, these new versions offer “a unique musical insight into one of the most profound recording artists of our time.”
“Listening back to the acoustic piano versions of Gil’s old songs that we had captured in New York, I found that they were in themselves remarkable, completely different from the originals, and full of magic in their simplicity,” noted Russell. “I realized we in fact had made the album we originally set out to. Gil had carefully curated the selection, so the album serves as an excellent introduction to his previous output.
“’Nothing New’ is truly ‘spartan’ in that it is utterly sparse and devoid of anything that is not completely necessary. … All it contains is Gil’s singing and piano playing.”
The final product also contains excerpts of their between-take conversations that “give a sense of Gil’s profound and profane nature. Now you can check out some of [his] asides, and particularly the final interlude, ‘On Bobby Blue Bland,’ for a glimpse of the man’s playful sense of humor.”
Once he compiled and edited the songs, Russell made three acetates, one of which he presented to Gil’s son Rumal Rackley, another to his friend and keyboard player Kim Jordan and the third to Ms. Mimi, who kept Gil’s house in order.
“Rumal felt we should share this work with people,” added Russell, who says the album completes the trilogy from his sessions in New York between 2005 and 2009, including “I’m New Here” and Jamie xx’s remix album, “We’re New Here.”
Below is an audio excerpt from the album.
1. Did You Hear What They Said
2. Better Days Ahead
3. Household Name (Interlude)
4. Your Daddy Loves You
5. Changing Yourself (Interlude)
6. Pieces of a Man
7. Enjoying Yourself (Outro)
1. Alien (Hold on to Your Dreams)
2. Before I Hit the Bottom (Interlude)
3. 95 South (All the Places We’ve Been)
4. The Other Side
5. The On/Off Switch (Interlude)
6. Blue Collar
7. On Bobby Blue Bland (Outro)
This article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter