Scott-Heron, Gil & Jackson, Brian – “Bridges” – [Arista Records, Inc.]
There’s a certain something about the 1970’s that makes me get all giddy. If it is soul, funk, Black Power and synthesizers, I’m knockin’ you over and pushing to the front of the line. This Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson album, Bridges, from 1977, is what that is all about. Scott-Heron and Jackson are best known for the song “The Bottle” and we know all about it blah, blah, blah. But these guys put out around ten albums in the mighty decade of the ’70’s and this one is not taking a back seat to any bottle.
Jackson is the keyboardist, on this album Rhodes (!!) and T.O.N.T.O.(!!!!!!) but we’ll get to that later, as well as flautist, singer and composer. Scott-Heron is lyricist and singer. Jackson often took the back seat to Scott-Heron’s vocal and lyrical bravado, but it is Jackson’s musicianship that solidifies the projects and keeps them funky and soulful. There’s always the supporting actor who keeps it all together and Jackson is that. It’s 1977 and the Rhodes is in full force, heading into a bit o’ fusion but not snoozey fusion (which I like to call “snoozsion”). With a solid back up band, Jackson leads us on a tour of 1977 soul: slow and dripping sex, funky, street strutting, ballad-like. It’s all there with the bass line moving your hips in the right direction and the drums keeping up your attention, in case you forget.
Can we talk about the T.O.N.T.O. (The Original New Timbral Orchestra)? It’s the largest, multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer in the world. It takes up a room. It was used in “Phantom of the Paradise”. Jackson uses it and it blasts. Squeaks, and bloinks and weirdo shots of electronic spaceyness. Yum.
Scott-Heron actually sings more than speaks on this album and that’s a good thing. His mellow, mid octave range voice takes the listener where he wants you to go but not forcefully. His tales of travel, urban dilemma and social consciousness are not bats beating you over the head, usually. The listener makes a connection.
Now a few heads ups: 1.”Vildgolia” has Bela Lugosi/vampire vocals and references. 2.”Racetrack in France” sounds like how Jamiroquai got his sound. 3. The beginning of “We Almost Lost Detroit” sounds like one of those deep soul cuts you play when you invite your lady over for the evening. The lights are low, the incense is lit. You’ve got the bottle of Courvoisier open and ready to pour and then BAM, Scott-Heron starts signing about the 1966 nuclear meltdown at the Fermi Atomic Power Plant near Monroe MI. He even mentions Karen Silkwood. Talk about a buzz kill. You ain’t getting any tonight with that kind of talk.
All three of these get the Naysayer nod of approval.
You will be satisfied with this when you listen.