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Herbie Hancock - The Herbie Hancock Group: Head Hunters CD (album) cover

THE HERBIE HANCOCK GROUP: HEAD HUNTERS

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.95 | 246 ratings

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Kempokid
4 stars My previous review of John Coltrane's Giant Steps gave me the idea to theme the next few reviews of mine around looking into the common entry points for jazz , so the obvious next step in my eyes was to review what is basically the quintessential entry point into jazz fusion and overall one of the most accessible jazz albums in general. I feel that part of the reason for the approachable nature of the album comes from how hard the album leans into funk throughout, leading to a plethora of incredibly fun, catchy moments that offset the more improvisational moments that often seem to be what will push away newcomers to the genre. It's made all the better by the fact that it does this while also just sounding great in general, still sounding like an intricate, well put together album, just one that's very immediate in its appeal.

The album starts off with what is very comfortably the best track, Chameleon, immediately drawing the listener in with it's masterful bassline, which while quite simple also carries such an insane groove to it that I find it hard to not immediately love it. This is further accentuated by the way that every other component of the song serves almost purely as ways to further elevate the bass of this, making an already great aspect of the song feel that much better. I also noticed that this track does the same thing as another classic Hancock song, Cantaloupe Island, where the tempo steadily increases, but does it in a subtle enough way that it's completely plausible to not pick up on this, but still feel as if it's intensifying. Watermelon Man is a more traditionally jazzy song, with a lot more focus one just jamming out, with a lot of the funkier aspects still being there, but nowhere near as prominent, accompanying the other elements rather than being the core focus of it. All in all very fun and chilled out, I like the instrumentation choices as well, with the broad range of percussion such as the surdo and agogo bells giving it quite a unique sound.

After the more slow paced nature of Watermelon Man, Sly goes for the completely opposite approach, being blisteringly fast paced and intense, the initial groove quickly being abandoned for wild interplay that feels as if it keeps spiralling further and further out of control. While not as amazingly crafted as Chameleon, depending on the day this honestly surpasses it for me, although barely, especially with how smoothly it transitions back into the melody from its intro, bringing it all together extremely nicely. The album closes off with Vein Melter, a track I find both great but also a bit disappointing, being far more conventionally jazz fusion compared to the extremely fun funkiness of everything else here. I also feel like for something with a title as cool sounding as Vein Melter, the lack of intensity here is a bit of a letdown. Even so, this is definitely one that grows on you, initially feeling quite boring, but gradually revealing its greatness, especially in how relaxing it is, bringing the album to a close in what's probably not the most representative way, but it still works regardless and serves as a cool down after the intensity of Sly.

In the end, this works incredibly well as an entry point into jazz fusion and even jazz in general, with a great amount of variation in between the 4 tracks keeping things fresh, while also ensuring that it all sticks to a consistent sound and aesthetic, giving some cohesion to the variation. This is just a very consistent fun time that's honestly something I consider essential to demonstrate the more accessible side of the genre, so I strongly recommend this extremely vibrant, colourful album.

Best tracks: Chameleon, Sly

Weakest tracks: Though still great, Vein Melter is a bit weaker than the rest.

Kempokid | 4/5 |

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