With Spirits, Gil Scott-Heron made a triumphant return to the studio after a 12-year absence. Though the politically charged R&B singer’s voice had deteriorated, much of his soulfulness comes through. His songwriting is consistently excellent, and songs ranging from « Message to the Messengers » (which advises young rap artists to use their power wisely) to « Work for Peace » leave no doubt that his sociopolitical observations are as sharp as ever. One of the most riveting cuts is « The Other Side, » an extended remake of his early-’70s classic « Home Is Where the Hatred Is » (which describes a drug addict’s struggle). The East Coaster had been battling addiction himself during his absence from recording, and this heartfelt song isn’t for the squeamish. Scott-Heron had successfully dabbled in jazz over the years, and in fact, among the CD’s many strong points are the lyrics he adds to John Coltrane’s « Spirits. » One cannot help but wish Scott-Heron still had a great voice to go with this material, but even so, Spirits is powerful listening.