Hear Gil Scott-Heron Do a Stripped-Down “Alien” on New Posthumous Album

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
April 1 2014 3:51 PM

Hear Gil Scott-Heron Do a Stripped-Down “Alien” on New Posthumous Album

98507554-musician-gil-scott-heron-performs-during-day-one-of-the
Listen to Gil Scott-Heron's intimate reworking of "Alien (Hold on to Your Dreams)."

Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images

When, in 2008, XL Recordings owner Richard Russell pitched to musician and spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron the idea of recording stripped-down versions of select songs from his storied back catalog, Scott-Heron’s final album, I’m New Here, emerged instead. But six months after Scott-Heron passed away in 2011, Russell returned to those reworked tracks, compiling them into another new album from the their New York sessions. Today, on what would’ve been Scott-Heron’s 65th birthday, Russell announced plans to release this posthumous album, Nothing New, in limited edition vinyl for Record Store Day, April 19. “Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams),” a song from Scott-Heron’s collaborative LP with Brian Jackson 1980, serves as our first listen from the album.

In this bare-bones reimagining, Russell does away with the intricate guitar work, drums, and back-up vocalists; just a piano and Scott-Heron’s voice are enough. And when he sings, “You have got to hold on to your dreams,” his voice weighted by the wear and tear of drug addiction, that uplifting message loses some of its liveliness. Instead, he sings with a sense of urgency, begging listeners to keep up the fight—his own battle scars reflected in the plea—making for a more personal, intimate experience. For comparison, listen to the original version of “Alien” below.

Dee Lockett is Slate's editorial assistant for culture.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.