ARTIST: GIL SCOTT-HERON & BRIAN JACKSON
TITLE / format : From South Africa to South Carolina - CD
LABEL: Originally released 1975; reissued 1998 by TVT Records, 23 E. 4th St., New York, NY 10003
This CD really brings back memories. Unluckily, not necessarily good ones. When South Africa to South Carolina first came out, I was getting heavily into punk, and was nauseated by anything remotely jazz/funk. I fled from Gil Scott-Heron.
Now I’m older, my musical tastes have matured, or at least broadened, and I can, at least, tolerate his mellow jazz. Musically, it is quite pleasant. There are nice flute and piano jams, some funky call and response, and mellow, mellow tunes like “Beginnings” and “A Lovely Day,” which capture the sunshiney feel of a summer day’s promise.
Lyrically, S.A. to S.C. is a mixed bag. Since 1975 I have also become acquainted with Scott-Heron as a poet, and that truly shows on some of the tracks. The two songs just mentioned are also lovely poems. However, much of the CD consists of political songs, and here my bad flashbacks really kick in.Yes, I remember protesting baby formula. And nuclear power plants. Hell, I remember protesting (how many of you can say that?). While I still appreciate and agree with the general sentiments of these songs, the specifics sound terribly dated. A song about a nuclear power plant in South Carolina just doesn’t seem relevant to anything today.
Yet, Gil Scott-Heron does manage to have the last word on even this. The chorus of “South Carolina” goes “Whatever happened to the protests and the rage?/ Whatever happened to the voices of the sane?/ Whatever happened to the people who gave a damn?/ Or did that just apply to dying in the jungles of Viet Nam?” Even in 1975, he saw the whole notion of protest fading. Now it’s just as nostalgic as the jazz of this album.