- Audio CD (7 April 1997)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Columbia Legacy
- ASIN: B000024F6K
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Audio Cassette | Vinyl | Mini-Disc | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,924 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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100 Albums That Shook The World
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Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters - Cd
Keyboardist Herbie Hancock's remarkable career took a surprising turn with this funk album. Hancock's already-storied career had included an extended tenure with Miles Davis as a member of both the classic quintet of the 1960s and the trumpeter's groundbreaking electric dates. As a leader, the pianist had followed a similar course, cutting both outstanding acoustic dates (Maiden Voyage, Empyrean Isles) and experimental electric sessions (Sextant, Crossings). Head Hunters, however, was something different: a stripped-down date featuring reedman Bennie Maupin as the only horn player, and a funk-oriented rhythm section made up of Paul Jackson, Harvey Mason, and Bill Summers. Hancock traded in his sophisticated piano performances and complex compositions for simple melodies, slow-burn funk grooves, and light electric keyboard splashes. The results, particularly on the tracks "Chameleon" and "Watermelon Man", had a profound impact on other musicians, although critics charged Hancock with playing to the galleries. But the album has stood the test of time--something neither the wealth of Hancock's imitators nor his own subsequent albums in this vein have been able to do. --Fred Goodman
Top Customer Reviews
And it is the word `accesssible' that is the key to this - with is experiments in dissonance and complex meandering improvisations Miles Davis was almost challenging people to enjoy Bitches Brew, but Hancock throws open the door and invites you inside for a night of dancing. It's all clever stuff, but it is enjoyable music that gets your dancing feet going as well.
This release is the Columbia 1997 reissue. It has an excellent mastering, with a clear sound. The original album is here with no extras, which seems a little bit of a shame but there you go.
"Chameleon", the opening track, was immediately recognised as a major contribution to both the jazz canon and the dance canon. No riff in jazz had ever sounded as deep and thrusting as this. In spite of the widespread popularity of "Chameleon" and the legion of admirers who claim it's the greatest jazz funk track ever, the real masterpiece is "Watermelon Man".
It's mildly ironic that the best piece on the album should be one that Hancock had composed early in his career (it first appears on his first album as leader, Takin' Off, Blue Note, 1962). The 1973 version is virtually unrecognisable from the original - it retains only the blues-based progression, and Paul Jackson's detached bass figures wink distantly at Butch Warren's original blues bass line. The composition is constructed cautiously over a light ostinato pipe figure that builds up into a theme dominated by Hancock's Fender Rhodes, alternating between a staccato emphasis on the off-beat and a call-and-response dialogue between Hancock and Bennie Maupin that hovers in eerie suspension over the bass and drums.
Most significantly, the album introduces humour as a central element in the argument: jazz-funk could only be taken seriously as a genre when it mocked itself. Head Hunters drew simultaneously on Herbie Hancock's decade of playing with the jazz greats, the wah-wah sound of Jimi Hendrix's legacy, and the feverish dance sound of Sly Stone and George Clinton. And it did this with the supreme paradoxical humour of simultaneous detachment and involvement that only a master like Hancock could pull off.
Where do you start with Chameleon? It is a staple of funk music, a tune that is known to people who have never listened to jazz in their life, arguably the most famous genre crossover piece in history. BUT, bizarrely, it's perhaps the weakest track on Head Hunters, simply because of the quality of the tunes that follow.
Watermelon Man, funked up from Hancock's Takin' Off (Blue Note, 1963) standard, is given a lazy, half time feel, and easily eclipses the original. Sly, is where the cool feel of the album is briefly broken for insanely energetic solos by Bennie Maupin and then Herbie. The album is finished off with Vein Melter- a deeply chilled out effort that recalls Crossings' (Warner Bros, 1971) Water Torture, and returns the album's tone back into the blue.
Head Hunters is not a perfect album(witness the drums and the bass disagreeing over tempo after the electric piano solo on Chameleon, or Vein Melter's dodgy synth strings), but I like to think that no other jazz-funk album, Hancock's or anyone elses, has ever surpassed it. It remains one of my favourite albums, and a great introduction to Herbie Hancock's funk music.
This amazing and boundary busting album from the early 1970s does not disappoint on re hearing, indeed the sounds from Mr Hancock and co transported me back to a carefree summertime with the intensity that true nostalgia can bring.
The album is a jazz funk oriented blast that satisfies every one of my musical molecules; with just four tracks the music can explore and experiment without a trace of longeuse
Aged circa 33 at the time this monstrosity of jazz funk was waxed he'd already struck out on his own, and travelled from the familiar turf of his post-Miles Blue Note territory via the jazzed up R'n'B grease of Fat Albert to the more outré sounds of his Mwandishi-era recordings. All of these elements gradually came to coalesce around the period of Headhunters and Thrust, to give us some truly sublime music that combines outer-limits chops with maximum vibes and group cohesion.
The big track is Chameleon, which continues to survive being done to death by aspiring funkateers in jam sessions and gigs around the world to this day. Most young bucks just go for the A-section, with the distinctive horn line atop Herbie's synth bassline (usually heard on bass guitar: Jackson's high bass lick, with the bent note, getting lost, sadly): it's rare you hear bands copping the next two segments. Whilst the whole piece is fabulous, some might be jaded by the overexposure to the signature section. I still love it all, but my favourite part has alway actually been the bit after Harvey Mason's deliciously rudimentary breakdown, on snare and hi-hat, which launches into a kind of almost Latin-fusion vibe, and just gets immensely intense (and speeds up!). This track on its own guarantees that this album remains essential, a true 'standard' of the fusion era.
But all the other tracks are excellent, even if they don't necessarily burn with the same stellar intensity.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Yes just as I remembered this on LP way back .Excellent tracks try this.Published 11 days ago by Jed10
Fantastic classic album. A must even if not just for Watermelon Man.. Mason is as good as ever. Everything else has been said.Published 16 months ago by just-william