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Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters CD (album) cover

HEAD HUNTERS

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.84 | 125 ratings

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Progfan97402
5 stars Herbie Hancock retooled the musical direction he headed for Head Hunters, realizing that people weren't buying his Mwandishi-era albums (I'm sure the same reason a fan of later Tangerine Dream is likely to be scared off of Zeit). It's those albums were a bit over the heads of mainstream listeners. Look, Mwandishi, Crossings, and Sextant were hardly made for mainstream listeners, and since my tastes are not exactly mainstream, I have no problem with these albums and really enjoy them a lot. Hancock simply formed a new band, although retaining Bennie Maupin from the old lineup.

It's nice to see Herbie Hancock did not dumb down his music to reach a wider audience, although Head Hunters is an admittedly more accessible, but instead of doing something overly mainstream, he adopts a funk approach. Certainly funky tendencies showed up on Sextant, particularly on "Hornets" with the funky blaxploitation-type drumming and clavinet, but it often veered on the avant garde. "Chameleon" is the most recognized song on this album and you can imagine tons of rap DJs sampling this song. There's this wonderful funky approach as well as more fusion-oriented passages. He then totally does a drastic remake of "Watermelon Man". If you've heard the 1962 original, with the piano and horns, you can't deny how catchy it is. I even find this song enjoyable even though I was never a fan of his Blue Note-era albums (I couldn't get into them, but I can see many jazz fans would enjoy them so I don't bother reviewing them since they're perfectly good albums I am unable to connect with). This 1973 remake is drastically different with odd Africal rhythms and strange whistle or bottle sounds, and the music updated for electric piano and clavinet. You might have to listen to this several times to notice that the familiar theme does creep up, it's certainly not in that straightforward piano and horn-dominated style of the original. Fusion fans are really going to be blown away with "Sly", an obvious tribute to Sly & the Family Stone. The band really gets into a really intense jam, but the funk influences Hancock has adopted for this album are ever present. "Vein Melter" is the closing piece and the closest to the previous sound you'll get, in fact Bennie Maupin's sax playing was more in lines with what was heard in Crossings. Going for this more accessible funk-influenced fusion certainly helped Herbie Hancock big time. It definitely prevented him from being dropped from Columbia Records (I'm certain had he recorded another album like Sextant, Columbia would have likely dropped him). I really find nothing to fault Head Hunters, it's very much a classic, and it did not require many listens to be amazed by it either!

Progfan97402 | 5/5 |

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