Having listened to Gil Scott-Heron's final album, I'm New Here, it's hard to imagine how that album could be matched with a reimagining. The trip-hop, acoustic and soul throughout that album is mixed in such an engaging way and to imagine those songs sounding different is a difficult task. How exactly would such freshly made songs be altered in a successful way? Makaya McCraven pays tribute here by not only recreating the sound of Scott-Heron but interweaving completely new elements and sounds into the voice of the man who originally released these tracks.
The complex and avant-garde jazz produced here is top notch, perfectly matching the voice and poetry of Scott-Heron. His songs are driven not simply by his grizzled voice but also by this poetic artistry, and the eclectic jazz swapped in from the woozy previous sounds gives the album an entirely different and reinvigorated life. The whole reimagining feels natural, which is an essential piece of taking these songs and changing them into your own.
An additional essential is that the newly produced music does not overshadow the vocals of Scott-Heron. Rather than capitalize on his legacy, McCraven truly feels like he is celebrating it as well as exposing an audience to his legacy that perhaps would not have been given that exposure otherwise - myself included.
We're New Again deserves to both be praised for its elegant ability to recapture these songs as well as exist within its own world outside of the original. Had you never heard I'm New Here, this album would still be an essential listen. If you were a previous fan of that album, you are sure to feel a past has been glorified in the best way possible.
Favorite track: New York Is Killing Me