Several Gil Scott-Heron compilations were released throughout the '70s, '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, but 2005's Messages was the first to concentrate on the material released between 1973 and 1979 -- a productive phase involving seven albums, most of which were represented by a track or two on the preceding overviews. Featuring multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Brian Jackson, these albums were often filler-prone but they were never lacking at least a few moments in which everything clicked. At their best, the duo collaborated on jazzed-up funk that, while far more somber and sober, was just as funky as -- and often more poignant than -- anything on Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On. This is a shame since Scott-Heron's career is often reduced to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and a couple other sound bites, whereas the one Sly album is routinely held up as a hallmark -- and rightly so, but the depth of Scott-Heron's catalog is shortchanged with as much frequency. The U.K.'s Soul Brother label, always a reliable source for digging deeper, pulls up a smart selection that includes "We Almost Lost Detroit," "The Bottle," "Winter in America," "Show Bizness," the 12-minute live version of "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," and "Angel Dust," which wound up being Scott-Heron's highest-charting single (number 15 Black Singles, 1977).
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman