Jill Scott

Experience: Jill Scott 826+

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What you think of Jill Scott's second album, Experience: Jill Scott 826+, is going to depend on how you define the two-hour, double-disc set. Is it, as its title suggests, a live album (recorded mostly on August 26, 2001, in Washington, D.C., hence the "826") plus a bonus disc containing some new studio tracks? Or is it a new studio album with a live disc tacked on? There aren't many artists who can justify the release of a live album after releasing only one studio album, especially when the live album consists almost entirely of material from that one album. The draw here, however, is Scott herself. A performing poet-turned-singer, she clearly knows how to please an audience, and the Washingtonians seem primed, frequently singing along to her songs without prompting and cheering many aspects of the show that can't be appreciated on a mere audio recording of it. If Scott's debut disc found her still in transition from the spoken word to the sung song, she has long since made that shift, and the album is full of vocal pyrotechnics, though, as she herself acknowledges, she talks a lot, even coming off like a standup comic in her defense of her song "Gettin' in the Way." The conceptual unity that tied these songs together on Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 is missing here, but there's no denying Scott's effectiveness as a performer. The "+" disc, however, sounds like a collection of demos for her next album rather than a stand-alone document, even before the extended hidden tracks at the end present alternate versions. (Don't believe the one-minute-and-48-second time listed for the last track; it really runs over 16 minutes.) So, let's call this a satisfying live album with some bonus tracks, a good seasonal stocking-stuffer.

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