Gil Scott-Heron

The Best of Gil Scott-Heron [Arista]

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In 1975, Gil Scott-Heron became the first artist ever signed to Arista Records, but ten years later, he proved expendable when Clive Davis' company dropped him. It was sad to see Arista give Scott-Heron the boot in 1985, although it wasn't surprising -- by the mid-'80s, Arista was only interested in superstars, and Scott-Heron was never a superstar. Though the singer commanded a loyal following, it was a small following. Scott-Heron was little-known among pop fans, and although R&B fans knew him for "The Bottle," "Angel Dust," and "Johannesburg," he was never a huge name in the R&B world. Not long before Arista dropped Scott-Heron, it released this LP, which offered one new song ("Re-Ron") but contains mostly previously released material. The only gem from Scott-Heron's pre-Arista years on Flying Dutchman is the 1970s incendiary "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Otherwise, The Best of Gil Scott-Heron (which spans 1970-1984) spotlights his Arista years and offers some of his most essential recordings for that label, which range from the singles "The Bottle" (a number 15 R&B hit), "Johannesburg" (which went to number 29 on the R&B singles charts), and "Angel Dust" to "Winter in America," "Shut 'Um Down," and "B Movie" (one of Scott-Heron's angry attacks on President Ronald Reagan). Even if you don't agree with all of Scott-Heron's politics, he was always thought-provoking and was certainly an expressive, captivating R&B singer -- it's too bad he ended up spending the second half of the 1980s without any type of label deal. For those who wanted an introductory overview of Scott-Heron's Arista output, this LP was, in the mid-'80s, a logical choice.

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