This is only my second experience of Scott-Heron, so I don’t know enough about the history, but it seems like this is (mostly) a somewhat radical departure from his earlier work. That’s in part because there is a large band here now, rather than just a trio (or nobody) backing Scott-Heron.
The result is that this record (mostly) feels more “musical” than the other record of his I’ve heard (which came out the previous year). There’s a temptation to view that move as a bit of a “sell out” but fortunately that’s not how it comes across.
And that’s principally because of Scott-Heron himself, who is both not the slickest soul singer you’ve ever heard, and also it feels like everything has been recorded live, which helps keep some warts in everything. (It does sound more polished than the earlier record, though.)
There is one exception to all this, which is the spoken word track. It feels more incongruous this time because everything around it sounds different from the record around it. But this is Scott-Heron’s thing so I find it hard to criticize its inclusion. (The nitpicker in me might suggest one side of spoken word and one side of music, or separate albums. But for some reason I don’t feel compelled to argue for that here.) Apparently it’s so much of a sore thumb its been excised from some versions of this record. And that seems silly because, as I said, political poetry is his thing.
Anyway, I think the results are pretty good, even if the presentation is a little inconsistent. I certainly find Scott-Heron one of the more compelling male soul performers of his era.
PS: This is not jazz. I wish people would stop classifying it as jazz.
(Also: I have a thing for overly complicated band names where everyone has to get their correct attribution. This one is like Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity, only this one makes more sense.)