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Herbie Hancock - Monster CD (album) cover

MONSTER

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.40 | 17 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars In the jazz world few have been as prolific, long lasting and diverse in their output as HERBIE HANCOCK who rocketed into stardom at a young age by playing with Donald Byrd and later Miles Davis and has innovated the jazz world every step of the way. Starting all the way back in 1962 he debuted as a solo act with 'Takin' Off' and has released over 50 albums to date and although there have been some true gems in that musical haystack there have been a few detours from the jazz world that have left more than one hardcore fan scratching their head wondering what in the world HERBIE was smoking when he thought THAT was a great idea.

HANCOCK's career can roughly be broken into three phases. His traditional jazz period lasted from his debut and lasted to his 1970 release 'The Prisoner' but starting with his following album 'Fat Albert Rotunda' a new phase began that incorporated funk and fusion elements which spawned some of his most celebrated era for prog oriented fans with the Mwandishi Trilogy followed by a series of funk jazz classics including 'Head Hunters.' The late 70s was like an acid trip gone wrong for many jazz and progressive rock artists that dominated the early 70s though and many artists that created some of the most magnificent music within those genres suddenly got all weird and experimental and not always in a good way.

After a short return to pure jazz, HANCOCK caught the disco bug and released two albums of danceable funk soul disco starting with 1979's 'Feets Don't Fail Me Now' and quickly followed by this following MONSTER that came out the next year. Obviously influenced by 70s soul and funk like Earth, Wind & Fire more contemporary dance floor booty shakers like Michael Jackson, Donna Summer and Chic, MONSTER belies its scary album title and shows HANCOCK crafting a rather by-the-numbers tribute to the aforementioned acts (and similar ones) made somewhat interesting by the inclusion of numerous guests including Carlos Santana giving a guitar performance, soul session bassist Freddie Washington and vocalist Oren Waters who is most famous for singing with the backup group The Waters.

For a funk oriented disco album this one is unusual in that it contains only six tracks with four passing the seven minute mark however this isn't progressive disco or anything of the sort. This is an album's worth of funk guitar rhythms, reserved keyboards that often imitates horn sections and disco percussive beats accompanied by smooth soulful vocals from several different singers. While jazz is hardly the focus here it's not completely absent it's more of a sampled jazz pop kept from getting too wild in the confines of a funk groove. Despite being a HANCOCK solo album, HERBIE's contributions are rather low key and the prime emphasis is on the vocals and danceable beats designed for passive listening at dance parties. There are also a few moments of rock guitar bombast but never out of context with the main dance / funk rhythmic drive.

While it sounds like a horrible idea as a hardcore progger and jazz stalwart i'm certainly not put off by simpler music with soulful lyrics and steady beats it's not the kind of album you'd expect from one of the fusion masters of jazz. MONSTER is a decent listen with some great tunes like 'Stars In Your Eyes' and 'Making Love' which will really get your girl in the mood on a romantic evening. I can't say that MONSTER really stands out from the plethora of similarly sounding albums of the era and fails to produce any real zingers that make you want to return for listens.

As a delver into all musical expressions, especially from the African-American point of view, i can understand why HERBIE wanted to scratch his itch by recording a couple soulful dance albums but i think it's safe to say that for all the jazz purists and fusion freaks, this won't come close to the top of their favorites list for HERBIE HANCOCK albums. This era would start the era of HANCOCK's unpredictable output but at this point its' safe to conclude that his best works remained in the past. While HERBIE HANCOCK will surely never be known for his short detour into the world of disco, i have to admit that this album is pretty decently performed and recorded. On the newer remastered editions are several bonus tracks but in the end i'm quite satisfied with owning the original six tune release because that's about all i can really handle of this.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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