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Herbie Hancock - Death Wish (OST) CD (album) cover


Herbie Hancock

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I've said it before and I'll say it again, movie soundtracks and progressive rock have a lot in common. Both genres borrow freely from other genres to create new sounds. I especially enjoy so called crime jazz soundtracks, from the early work of Stan Kenton and Henry Mancini and up to 70s masters like Isaac Hayes, crime jazz has a certain menace and air of mystery that is hard to find elsewhere. I have always thought that Fripp was heavily influenced by crime jazz when he created the first three King Crimson albums.

Having just released his amazing psychedelic fusion work with his Sextant, Herbie Hancock was a natural choice to compose the music for this tense gritty movie. This album mixes modern concert hall music with blaxploitation grooves, electronic experimentation, insane psychedelic jazz blow-outs and beautiful pastoral instrumentals into one big funky intellectual tone poem. All the moments you would expect from a crime movie are here, tense scary music that hangs in the air, quick pulsed chases and sweeping panoramic urban views. In his attempt to paint these aural pictures Herbie uses every sound available at the time including extended techniques for string orchestra, synthesizers, echoplexes, and all manner of percussion and noise makers.

For fans of Herbie's Sextant (possibly the finest fusion group ever) there is one track at the end of the album that features that group doing what it does best, playing super intense solos over an impossible syncopated groove while Hancock adds a smorgasbord of electronic colors.

Report this review (#189421)
Posted Saturday, November 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Well, if Herbie collaborated on some obscure Blaxpoitation flick (Spook That Sat?) in the early 70's, he was also in demand in "higher" Hollywood circles and was commissioned the Deathwish film soundtrack, the first of three Charles Bronson-led movies. Well Hancock did put all of his classical music science to good effects to compose a vastly different soundscape than his previous Spook effort, but then again, he wasn't exactly new to this realm, since he'd already done that throughout the 60's.

Actually the music is probably some of the "proggiest" Hancock ever penned, mixing his torrid JR/F with some symphonic moments, with some ever-present orchestral arrangements nearing the cheesy and kitschy, but never overflowing the bucket of tastelessness. Indeed the Main Theme and its successor Joanna's Theme are rather impressive fusion of funk-jazz with some lush string section's delirium. While interesting enough, some tracks obviously lack the visuals for which they were composed for, like Do A Thing and Paint Her Mouth (this one being often dissonant, thus indicating a gory moment in the flick. Some others are almost laughably bucolic, like the ultra-symphonic (and tacky) Rich Country and is really hindering the soundtrack, outside the visual context.

The flipside opens on the 5-movements Suite Revenge, which again dips in the classical genre, beit symphonic or dissonantly modern (it's obviously not improvised, since purposely written for the images), but again, to really get the music's genius, it's better to view the actual movie. But it remains quite a small tour de force anyway. Indeed the music is expressive enough to guess the actual events and action of the movie. At times, the music is grandiose and the Fill Your Hand finale is simply astounding composition mastery.

I was never a fan of original soundtracks of movies, because there is always the missing visual accompaniment lacking, and often it renders parts of the music almost obtusely impenetrable. It's not that much the case here, as Hancock's full savoir-faire is often flawless, but still, you'd better own the movie than the soundtrack alone.

Report this review (#433178)
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011 | Review Permalink

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