HERBIE HANCOCK — Head Hunters (review)

HERBIE HANCOCK — Head Hunters album cover Album · 1973 · Funk Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
As much as I enjoy Sextant and Crossings, I know right away many people would be put off by the avant garde leanings of those albums. Herbie Hancock came to a realization that many people had a hard time appreciating avant garde, so with Head Hunters, he assembled a new band (with Bennie Maupin from the old lineup) and adopted a more funky approach. "Chameleon" is that prime example, a rather catchy and funky piece that still leaves room for improvisations, but one the other hand avoiding the more "far out" stuff that turned people away from his past three albums. He does a drastic remake of "Watermelon Man". I am very familiar with the 1962 original, he transformed it so much you have to listen carefully for some familiar themes to creep in. The music flirts with African music, plus the song is updated to include clavinets and electric piano, while the original was piano and horn-dominated. "Sly" is obvious reference to Sly Stone, he was open about his love for Sly & the Family Stone, inspiring him to go a more funky direction here. It's a real intense piece of fusion that any fan of fusion will just be totally blown away! "Vein Melter" is the last cut and more calm, and in a way, harkens back to the Sextant and Crossings style, but not so out there as to scare off more mainstream listeners. It's strange that I just got me Headhunters, and I've been aware of that album for a very long time. Well, better late than never. This album was a big success and it's nice to see he didn't adopt an overly-commercial approach to do it. Yes, it's more accessible than his previous three albums, but that was done on purpose. The production also seems cleaner too. This is without a doubt a fusion classic, and while I might not be the biggest fusion fan out there, I know good fusion when I hear it, and this is one of them and completely essential!
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