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


Herbie Hancock


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.95 | 234 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Probably the grooviest album ever.

Herbie Hancock is one of the many jazz pianists who 'went electric' and experimented with synthesizers, and his output from this very progressive period is some of the best jazz in this vein. But Head Hunters is less complex and airy than the Miles-influenced albums before it, and successfully combines clever, fresh sounds with commercial appeal and funk grooves. It was influenced by funk and in turn, influenced more funk (not to mention being sampled by thousands of rappers). But even hardcore fusion fans will enjoy the colourful textures and rhythms employed here; there's more substance in the album than some haters will make out.

'Chameleon' has that famous ARP Synthesizer bass line, which provides a basis to most of the track. Drums, african percussion, clavinets, basses and electric pianos are gradually added, with the doubled-up sax handling the main melody. One of the highlights of this extended groove is the reverb- drenched synth solo in the middle, which outclasses a lot of those by prog-rock keyboardists! The most popular track 'Watermelon Man' is a completely new take on the 60's classic, with the rather innovative beer-bottle blowing and vocal bursts serving as a tribal introduction to a very urban piece. It's the shortest song on the album but they squeeze a lot in.

Side two is less immediately accessible, which is a good thing to have in balance with the almost radio- worthy first side; it gives the album artistic depth. 'Sly' is a very fast, frantic and crazy piece driven by the percussion and drumming. The rhythms get very complex but never leave the 4/4 time signature, instead stretching it to it's limits, while the Fender Rhodes and sax add their charm in a way that combines the influence of Sly and the Family Stone and Miles Davis. Meanwhile 'Vein Melter', which sounds German but I've no idea what it means', is contrastingly laid back and cool, with bursts of melody from various instruments adding tone colour to the continuous, bolero-esque beat. There's less to cling on to for a listener here, but the piece is an enjoyable, atmospheric journey nonetheless.

The highlight of this album is the range of colourful sounds and textures that are employed, combined with very clean, pristine production. This gives it a positively urban feel despite the African influences. The rhythms are to die for and Hancock's playing is subtly brilliant. I think there's a good balance of moods, although not in any single song, making the album work better when played right through. In short, there's more to explore here than some would have you believe. Even if it's less adventurous then Crossings or Sextant, it makes up for that in sheer musical quality.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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