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Herbie Hancock

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Herbie Hancock The Prisoner album cover
3.62 | 38 ratings | 5 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I Have A Dream (10:58)
2. The Prisoner (7:57)
3. Firewater (7:33)
4. He Who Lives In Fear (6:52)
5. Promise Of The Sun (7:53)

Total time 41:13

Bonus tracks on 1999 remaster:
6. The Prisoner (alternate take) (5:48)
7. Firewater (alternate take) (8:39)

Line-up / Musicians

- Herbie Hancock / acoustic & electric pianos

- Johnny Coles / fluegelhorn
- Joe Henderson / tenor saxophone, alto flute
- Hubert Laws / flute (1,4)
- Garnett Brown / trombone
- Tony Studd / bass trombone (1,4)
- Jack Jeffers / bass trombone (3,5)
- Jerome Richardson / bass clarinet (1,4), flute (3,5)
- Romeo Penque / bass clarinet (3,5)
- Buster Williams / bass
- Albert Heath / drums

Releases information

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey on April 18 (2,4), April 21 (1) and April 23 (3,5), 1969

Artwork: David Bythewood (photo)

LP Blue Note ‎- BST 84321 (1969, US)

CD Blue Note ‎- CDP 7 46845 2 (1987, US)
CD Blue Note ‎- 7243 5 25649 2 7 (1999, Europe) Remaster by Rudy Van Gelder w/ 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to clarke2001 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy HERBIE HANCOCK The Prisoner Music

HERBIE HANCOCK The Prisoner ratings distribution

(38 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(53%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

HERBIE HANCOCK The Prisoner reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Kazuhiro
4 stars 1969 year might have been exactly in the flow with a reformative element in the world of Jazz. The flow done to shift in the 70's from "In A Silent Way" that Miles Davis announced might have exactly demonstrated the some kind of force. Hancock challenges the first time performance of the electric piano at this time by Miles Davis instruction. It has a very important respect and necessity for his music character that Hancock performs the electric piano. If only Hancock was said, the flow in a series of music at this time of him might have been rapidly revolutionized.

The performance of Hancock that had been done in the work in Blue Note gave birth to quite a lot of masterpieces. And, the world of Music who rushes into in the 70's has been changed overall exactly. Flow transfered the register from "Speak Like A Child" of the former work to Warner. Or, the point that the revolution of musical instruments also took in the age. And, Jazz is revolutionized. These elements have been digested enough in Hancock. When this album is announced, it makes remarks on Hancock. "This album obviously clarifies the expression of the self compared with the work before" This remark might have included the presentiment to the following creation that caught the digestion and the age of some music.

It is guessed that the revolution from the mode to the following creation was time of the major shift for Jazz. The creation of Hancock overflows indeed of course in the composition of this album. Difference point of "Speak Like A Child" of the former work and composition of this album. Or, it is flexible to which the revolution of musical instruments is obediently taken. These points might have been exactly inevitable of Hancock.

A lot of musicians are made to participate in the recording in this album. It presents the aspect of Big Band. Using of creation and musical instruments of Hancock properly. And, the performance of a strange band to exceed might succeed. The work of the flute of SAX and Hubert Laws of Joe Henderson is splendid each other. An electronic to the end element advances with decorated meaning it doesn't push out forward. Point to have clarified difference point with the former work though flow of "Speak Like A Child" was followed. Or, three work might already have been created in Hancock with Warner. And, the performance that he did in this album will lead to much when catching as not simple Jazz it but a chain of flows surely at this time.

Review by progrules
4 stars Typical 50's/60's jazz is what we are dealing with when we play a Hancock album. At least where this one is concerned. It s my first encounter with this great jazz musician who you could call the brilliant equivalent of Miles Davis but then on the piano. And I don't think it's going to be my last purchase of this genius.

And it's also one of my favourite jazz styles he is playing. It's only the smooth Steely Dan/Donald Fagen style that can match this one for my personal taste. Relaxed, improvising background jazz, the kind you will experience in any fancy restaurant. I love it big time and I can listen to it for hours without getting bored. The individual songs don't really matter here, it's the style that does the job.

So first class jazz in my book for sure. But if I compare it to the much proggier Brand X for instance it falls short in a way. Well, okay, the subgenre is called Jazz rock/fusion and not jazz prog so I think it's allright Herbie Hancock is in the archives. But it does prevent me from giving the very highest score because we're after all a prog site to begin with. Therefore 4 stars is the only correct score for me. Highly recommended for the real jazz lovers who adore the piano improvisation accompanied by bass and wind instruments.

Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'The Prisoner' - Herbie Hancock (6/10)

When one typically thinks of the year 1969 in music, the role of Jazz is scarcely mentioned. While most of the spotlight was on the giants of psychedelia and Woodstock, the young pianist Herbie Hancock would go to release this overlooked jazz relic,'The Prisoner.' Fresh from his experience playing for Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock was ready and quite able to take the reins of his own project entirely. While this album does seem to get far too caught up in it's own musical wandering and lacks some of the hooks that may define some of Hancock's greater work, it is played beautifully by a great ensemble, and goes to show the great talent of this brilliant jazz artist.

While listening to 'The Prisoner,' Miles Davis' standard opus from a decade before, 'Kind Of Blue' comes to mind. The chilled, relaxing vibe is still evident here, and Davis' influence permeates alot of what Hancock does in this record. There is a bit more of an unsettled feeling here however, that gives 'The Prisoner' a slightly more aggressive sound. With such song titles as 'I Have A Dream,' it's clear that Hancock has made this record as a tribute to one of his contemporary heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. While it may be difficult to discern any subject matter from the instrumental music alone, the passion with which each musician plays certainly reflects the fiery theme that Hancock wrote this music around.

While this is certainly a well-played album, the big issue here is with the compositions themselves. Although the opening remarks of 'I Have A Dream' show some very structured writing, most of the album trails off into a great relay game, in which each soloist passes the torch to the next. While this is a well-marked convention in jazz music, a few added sections of melody and emphasized composition may have really improved the enjoyment of this record. All in all, I can see 'The Prisoner' spurring the hearts of quite a few jazz afficionados. The music here is very well performed. The heaviest weighted issue here however, really affects my personal enjoyment as a listener, and a little more distinction between tracks may have made for a greater impression.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars I happen to prefer Herbie Hancock's more traditional jazz albums than his fusion excursions. Hancock, for all of his success with electric keyboards in fusion, from "Headhunters" to "Future Shock", never seemed to get comfortable in that setting. While popular audiences ate those albums up, they always, to me, sounded cold and repetitious.

Here, just after a stint in Miles Davis' band, Hancock brought together a fairly large band to play some light feeling be-bop. The band, featuring, among others, Joe Henderson and Hubert Laws, play fine, cool be-bop to Hancock's and bassist Buster Williams' compositions.

The theme of the album, according to the liner notes is "to express how black people have been imprisoned for a long time". While the song titles express that intent, the music conveys none of that imagery. Where the theme descibed above should have some level of tension, or even anger, the sound is mellow and cool. While it is fine listening music, I don't think it conveys what Hancock intended.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Before Herbie Hancock followed Miles Davis' lead into uncharted realms of cross-genre experimentation, The Prisoner was the culmination of his post-bop work of the 1960s. On a par with other Hancock albums from his post-bop period such as Maiden Voyage, the album takes advantage of an expanded lineup to offer a busier and more complex sound. A musical tribute to Martin Luther King - whose slaying a mere year previously was still fresh in the public's mind - Herbie Hancock claims that the album expresses his real personality better than any preceding piece. It's impossible to judge whether that's a case without meeting the man, but I can see how the personality of the album might be one Herbie wants to present to the world. After all, who wouldn't want to be regarded as similarly brainy, complex, deep, moving and politically aware to the music on here?

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