This week on Anniversary Albums we are taking a look at the debut studio album from the amazing New York singer and poet Gil Scott-Heron, “Pieces of a Man”.
Released in 1971, Pieces of a Man was a new musical direction for Scott-Heron whose previous work was largely spoken word.
The songs on this album, apart from a couple of exceptions were recorded largely in a more conventional song structure.
It was also his first collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Brian Jackson who he would form a long-standing musical partnership with.
Musically, the material for this album is very much rooted in jazz, soul, and blues. The songs are characterized by quite a mellow instrumentation with electric piano and guitar the driving forces, while on occasion some free jazz arrangements and solos appear.
The songs also tend to feature quite soulful vocals from Scott-Heron as he showcases his singing ability, pushing his vocals to the fore.
Pieces of a Man was not a commercial success and received very little critical attention at the time. However, it has since gone on to become a universally acclaimed record. It has garnered massive retrospective critical praise, with many acknowledging its influence on fusing difference genres together such as jazz, soul, funk and proto-rap.
It also inevitably had a massive influence on genres such as hip hop and neo-soul, something that was largely due to the fusing of different genres in the music, as well as Scott-Herons lyrical artistry and political and social awareness across the album.
The albums legacy was also undoubtedly enhanced by the opening track “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, a political spoken word track that some say was the first ever rap song.
However, Scott-Heron himself was critical of the over-inflation of “Revolution” compared to the other tracks on the record . He said “Revolution” ended up overshadowing the other material on the album leading to other songs being heard less as a result.