Gil Scott-Heron: Winter in America
Winter in America
Gil Scott-Heron (keyboards, vocals)
Midnight Band: The First Minute of a New Day (Rumal Gia-TVT 4350-2)
Gil Scott-Heron (keyboards, vocals).
Composed by Gil Scott-Heron.
Recorded: Maryland, June-July 1974
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
Today, proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron is acknowledged as a major influence on several developments in Black Music and soul jazz, and it is easy to imagine that such artists as Cassandra Wilson considered the poet-vocalist's music before finding her own path. One of Scott-Heron's finest statements is "Winter in America," an image-driven portrait of the icy stasis gripping the nation in the early seventies-after the assassinations, riots, Watergate, and Vietnam.
First, there was an album of that name but no song, as Scott-Heron considered the three words simply an evocative image and not a subject for music. Then, he composed an actual "Winter in America" for his Arista debut, The First Minute of a New Day. Live performances and recordings subsequently crystallized the recording's powerful message.
Featured as a bonus track on the New Day CD reissue, this version of the song is distinctive because Scott-Heron performs alone on it. His keyboard work is more staccato and basic and the melody is slightly flattened out. Despite the changes, the cold, hard facts remain: "...Democracy is rag-time on the corner, hopin' for some rain...all of our healers have been killed or betrayed...ain't nobody fighting because nobody knows what to save."
The scenario is bleak but Scott-Heron's compelling music and verbal tropes continue to resound thirty years farther (or maybe no farther) on.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher