Given Gil Scott-Heron's well-documented problems with substance abuse and prison, fans had every reasons to greet a new album with trepidation. But he has pulled it off, albeit in an unexpected way - Not by returning to the radical politics of the 1970s, but on offering personal stories of his upbringing. Not by trying to be the "grandfather of hip-hop," but by merging stories with a mix of jazz, hip-hop, and even folk styles, that take listeners in directions they may have never dreamed possible.
His voice has every bit of the rich and smoky power it had 30 years ago, but his observations are less about politicians and life in the inner city, than they are about ruminations on death, fear, and family. This album has a grace one might never have expected.
My only gripe is that, at 28 minutes, this almost constitutes an EP rather than a full-length album. It is full of very brief aphorisms and fragments that might be off-putting to those who expect structured songs. But the verbal interludes really provide something unique to the album. Welcome back, Gil. Since you're exploring such different musical realms this time around, you can truly say you're new here.