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Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters CD (album) cover

HEAD HUNTERS

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.85 | 132 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Head Hunters was the first album in which Herbie Hancock attempted to weld his jazz and neo-classical sensibilities to his sophisticated take on the popular funk beats of the time. It's not a bad album and has some great moments, but it's not as developed as his future funk/fusion masterpieces; Thrust and Man Child. Side one opens with the all too familiar fat funky synth bass line of Chameleon. Back in the day older jazz musicians hated this bass line and it's synthetic sound, their venomous foam-at-the-mouth descriptions of this tune made for many a humorous break-time during jazz band rehearsals. Anyway, the synth-bass line plows ahead and is topped by an out of tune over reverbed lead-synth that sputters away until finally there is a break and Paul Jackson enters with a real bass and the band finally has a chance to cut loose and jam. This section features an excellent Fender Rhodes solo backed by Herbie and Bennie Maupin's loungey neo-classical orchestrations on flute and string synthesizer, very nice. Side one closes with Hancock's great abstract Africanized and modernized take on his RnB classic, Watermelon Man.

Side two opens with Sly, which could have been a great high-energy abstract avant jazz-funk roof burner, but there are these, not one but two, rhythm clavinet parts that Hancock added that are way too loud and persistent and bury all the great poly-rhythms with this constant clavinet chatter that sounds like Stevie Wonder on meth with a bad case of the shakes. All is made up when side two closes with a classic Hancock futuristic loungey, achingly slow groove called Vein Melter. This is one of the finest Hancock tunes I know of and bears some strong resemblances to the sound of his previous band, The Sextet. Producer David Rubinson, from the excellent Sextet - Crossings album, and Herbie recreate some of Crossing's beautiful textures with double-tracked woodwinds, Mellotron, Arp String Ensemble and laid back Fender Rhodes playing through a classic Echoplex, very very nice.

Head Hunters is a fairly good and innovative album in the world of funk-fusion, but it is a bit inconsistent and unrefined, if you are looking for the best Herbie has to offer in this genre check out the hyper-abstract syncopations of Thrust, or the ultra slick future lounge jazz of Man Child.

js (Easy Money) | 3/5 |

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