Gil Scott-Heron

Moving Target

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Gil Scott-Heron's last proper album for more than a decade, Moving Target was recorded after a period of intense touring (hence the title) and, perhaps understandably, finds the Midnight Band playing a larger role than usual. It also may reflect the group's travels, as the typical, tastefully jazzy R&B and funk grooves -- like set-opener "Fast Lane" and "Explanations" -- are supplemented with more exotic sounds. Like Stevie Wonder, for whom he and the Midnight Band opened a tour in 1980, Scott-Heron and his bandmates were experimenting with reggae. "No Exit" has clear echoes of Bob Marley, while "Ready or Not" is a sultry island jam. Both tunes also had themes more personal than political, a shift noticeable elsewhere on the album (even "Washington D.C.," with its seemingly obvious subject, is as much about the resilient spirit of D.C.'s citizens as it's about the city's politicians). That's somewhat surprising, given that Scott-Heron had recently enjoyed success with "B-Movie," a pointed attack on then-president Ronald Reagan. But "Blue Collar" is a populist manifesto that gives shout-outs to working folks in a variety of professions across the fruited plain before concluding with the dispirited chorus, "There ain't no place we ain't been down," and "Black History/The World" offers nearly ten minutes of Afro-centric theorizing, beginning with a spoken introduction that hearkens back to Scott-Heron's sarcastic, poetic beginnings and ends with a simple -- some would say simplistic -- plea for peace and world change.

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