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Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters CD (album) cover

HEAD HUNTERS

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.84 | 132 ratings

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Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The textbook example of how to sell out and yet keep your musical dignity intact.

I'll go on record saying that SEXTANT might be my favourite album that Herbie Hancock put out, let alone one of his highest artistic triumphs. That artistic accomplishment didn't exactly translate into financial security. And I'm sure that the well-established powerhouse in Columbia Records wanted something that had more commercial viability. In essence, Hancock took a gamble by striking the Mwandishi concept after three albums, reducing the lineup of his band to just five, and taking pages out of Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder as a foundation for his next sonic approach.

HEAD HUNTERS is the resultant album of which most people that know of Herbie Hancock will register in their brains immediately. The music of HEAD HUNTERS is a counterbalance between jazz that the musicians are used to and funk, one of the music styles all the rage back when the album premiered. You could draw parallels to Hancock's career and Miles Davis's at the time, since Davis had notably ON THE CORNER as his big album at the time, another jazz record with strong funk leanings.

In all honesty, despite the more commercial approach the Headhunters (that will be the band name for a time) are going in, the album does retain most of the magic that made SEXTANT special. For starters, Bennie Maupin is the only other holdover from the Mwandishi lineup, a move that almost seems like common sense given how much character Maupin's reeds add to a piece of music (here, hear ''Sly''). Hancock's interpretation of funk crosses over well into the jazz world to the point where ''Chameleon'' is a new jazz standard despite the jam having heavy foreshadowing to hip hop. Where HEAD HUNTERS excels at is setting up a good groove and building on it without overstaying its welcome. It's why ''Chameleon'' has success in the first place, but the rapid fire section of ''Sly'' and the mid-tempo lock groove of a remake of ''Watermelon Man'' add to the overall appeal.

I would say HEAD HUNTERS has more funk in it than jazz, so the classic jazz fans might be turned off. Yet, any fan of jazz in a retro fashion will find this more than acceptable; especially those with more rock, funk and hip hop backgrounds. For me, the only reason HEAD HUNTERS is not an enjoyable masterpiece is that ''Vein Melter'' is significantly weaker than everything else on the album.

Sinusoid | 4/5 |

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