Released in 1971, Gil Scott-Heron’s second album “Pieces Of A Man” is a stone-cold classic and rightly seen as one of the greatest albums of all time.
There is a reason why a full album of songs did not appear as a follow-up. Both Thiele and Scott-Heron’s writing partner Brian Jackson had been keen to move forward quickly with song-based material, but Scott-Heron saw himself first and foremost as a writer. A new novel, The Nigger Factory, would be published in 1972 and he also enrolled for writing seminars at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Once the decision was made to combine poetry and song, sessions were booked for the 2nd and 3rd March 1972. The first session with Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie (drums), Hubert Laws (flute/piccolo), David Spinozza (guitar), Jerry Jemmott (bass) and Brian Jackson (electric and acoustic piano) recorded the songs with Horace Ott taking care of the arrangements. The second was dedicated to poetry, recorded with Scott-Heron, Jackson, Eddie Knowles and Charlie Sanders from their college group Black & Blues. “Free Will” was released in 1972.
The song side included the heart-rending Vietnam war commentary of ‘Do You Hear What They Said?’, the propulsive title track and the beautiful ‘The Middle Of Your Day’. The poetry side immerses you in the radical politics of the day via ‘No Knock’ and ‘The King Alfred Plan’, and ends with his heartfelt tribute to John Coltrane ‘...and then he wrote Meditations’. Like “Pieces Of A Man” it is a classic and a cornerstone of any record collection.
When BGP inherited the honour of looking after the Flying Dutchman legacy we discovered that, as well as being almost unparalleled in his discovery of great talent, Bob Thiele also recorded it immaculately. The label’s master tapes sounded exceptional and when it has come to our reissue series have only ever required the most minimal of EQ before transferring them onto disc.
With this is mind we have embarked on a series of all analogue re-mastering projects, to bring the listener as close to the sound captured on tape as possible. Our first release was Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces Of A Man” which was released early in 2023 and this second outing is “Free Will”. We took the original master tape to Frank Merritt at the Carvery who transferred the audio and mastered it before making this new cut himself. We then had it pressed on 180 gram vinyl and our only wish now is that you drop the needle, sit back and go back to 1972 to enjoy Gil Scott-Heron in his prime.