Herbie Hancock - when did he "go bad?"

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Howard K, Jul 1, 2003.

  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    OK, I'm a big fan of Herbie Hancock (in fact I'm going to see him tonight at the Barbican) and I have quite a collection of his music, from early stuff like Maiden Voyage right up to the 2001 release Future 2 Future, and the Live tributre to Coltrane/Davis he also did recently...

    Now I love all of Herbie's career except the aweful dirt he produced in the 80's... so, I just bought Sunlight from 1978 and it is equally filthy!

    My question is for all Herbie fans and is: what year does Herbie Hancocks music become unlistening for you? Then what year did he start producing listenable stuff again, in your opinion?

    I'm trying to define the period of his career that must be avoided (like the plague!) next time I feel like buying some Herbie?!
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Did you see the documentary on the South Bank Show - Sunday night - great stuff!!

    It made me think there must be something in Bhuddism - so there's him and Wayne Shorter, still playing at the top of their game and looking much younger than they should by rights - and how old are they? :eek:

    I like all his music - apart from Rockit/Future Shock era - although, on the documentary, they showed some footage of a live version of Rockit and it was great !!
  3. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    I'll never forget the first time I heard Rockit. WLS Chicago was still a music station back then. Rockit had all this "scratchin'" stuff on it. The DJ came on afterwards and said it sounded like a fat person wearing cordaroy pants walking down ther street. :D
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Hmm, I didnt see the documentary actually, but a mate recorded it. and I have seen the rockit footage live, it is indeed good.

    His latest album is available on DVD as 5.1 surround - I'm interested to hear some music mixed especially for 5.1, because a mate of mine is working on defining some industry standards for 5.1 surround mixing. Fascinating stuff.. anyway, wandering from topic...

    Thing is, you say you like all the stuff you heard, but how much have you heard? This Sunlight is right om the border of very tasteless I swear.. and I love cheesy music!

    Feets dont Fail me now is another one that;s pushing the realms of taste a littekl too far IMO also... although there's some great bass on the album!

    Yeah he does look young, but there's two things at play there 1) money and 2) some black guys seem to age really slowly from about aged 30 to 60. Plus they've been doing what they love for a living for the past 30 years, I reckon that would keep you pretty fresh looking!
  5. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd

    The majority of visible ageing is due to sun damage. The fairer skinned you are, the more likely you are too suffer this, hence black people age much better than us whiteboys.
  6. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    What? There was Herbie programme on TV and I missed it?!? DAMN!

    Herbie & Wayne are both in their early 60s now. And both, as you say, still at the top of their game.

    In answer to the question - HE DIDN'T GO BAD! :D

    Seriously, IMO, none of it is unlistenable. He's taken a lot of different directions, but, IMO, he's never gone bad.

    But, I do see where you're coming from. Personally, I love "Sunlight" and "Feets Don't Fail Me Now" (1979). I dig the vocoder.

    But, here's my rundown of Herbie albums for you, so you know which ones you might not like:

    Takin' Off (1962) - Great, typical Blue Note. Has the original version of Watermelon man.
    My Point Of View (1963) - Good, but not as good as Takin' Off, IMO. Still, very typical early 60s Blue Note.
    Inventions & Dimensions (1963) - Haven't really got into it. Piano trio stuff - a little more avant garde, but you may like it.
    Empyrean Isles (1964) - Killer. Has Canteloupe Island original.
    Maiden Voyage (1965) - Need I say more?
    Speak Like A Child (1968) - Good. Getting a little more complex now, with arranging. Perhaps a little less "accessible". But still good.
    The Prisoner (1969) - Good. Again, even more complex arrangements, and he uses a Rhodes this time (Rhodes - on a 60s Blue Note record?!?).

    Fat Albert Rotunda (1970) - Hmm. This was written for the TV show - I don't like it so much. Very much more commercial, and to me, less Jazz.
    Mwandishi (1971) - I like. Free form, avant garde, extended jams. This is the first album with his Mwandishi sextet. I like it.
    Crossings (1972) - Good. Same vein as Mwandishi - my favourite of the three albums he did with this sextet.
    Sextant (1973) - Good. Like the previous two, but electronic.

    Head Hunters (1973) - Need I say anything about this?
    Thrust (1974) - Great. Very fine album, very funky, I prefer it to Head Hunters.
    Man Child (1975) - Great. Funky, in a similar vein to Thrust. Has a killer harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder on a funky tune called "Steppin' In It".
    Secrets (1976) - Great. Has the magnificent "Gentle Thoughts". Some great Jazz-Funk.
    Sunlight (1978) - Heh. Now he's starting to go in a more disco direction, and this is when he started doing the vocoder thang. Personally, I like it, but it's more commercial than the previous albums. Howard would call it 'cheesy' :D
    Feets Don't Fail Me Now (1979) - If you don't like Sunlight, you won't like this. Like Sunlight, but more commercial. Every track but one has the ol' vocoder vocals. Again, I like it.
    Mr Hands (1980) - Great. You might call it a return to form. No vocoder vocals, just good Jazz-Funk, a lot like Man Child & Secrets. Has the killer track "4am", on which Jaco plays. Great tune.
    Monster (1980) - Now he's going very disco. Not so much of the vocoder vocals, this time he's got in some real singers. Still long tracks, though, with solos and all.
    Magic Windows (1981) - Very much like Monster. Mainly real vocalists, very commercial. Has one song I really like though - "Everybody's Broke".
    Lite Me Up (1982) - Very much like the last two. Has Herbie singing - without vocoder!!

    Future Shock (1983) - Now we're getting really electronic. This one has Rockit on it. You got all the DJ/scratching stuff too. It's not bad, but not one of my favourite Herbie albums.
    Sound System (1984) - Similar to Future Shock.
    Perfect Machine (1988) - Similar to the previous two, but this one is my favourite of the three. I like "B-Bop/Maiden Voyage", and "Chemical Residue" is very nice. If you don't like the last two, you might still like this one. Or you might not.

    Dis Is Da Drum (1994) - Quite good. Very 90s. He's teamed up with some rappers here, but it's good. Good version of "Butterfly" (from Thrust) on here. You might like it - it does have that 80s vibe that the last few albums had.

    The New Standard (1996) - Good. He's finally gone back to acoustic Jazz :) Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette. Basically, modern Jazz arrangements of what you might call pop standards. "Norweigan Wood" (Beatles), "New York Minute" (Eagles), "You've Got It Bad Girl" (Stevie Wonder), "Thieves In The Temple" (Prince), "Your Gold Teeth II" (Steely Dan) for example. You'll like this one.

    Gershwin's World (1998) - Good. Again, mainly acoustic. This one is mainly versions of Gershwin tunes, with various other artists. Joni Mitchell sings "Summertime" and "The Man I Love". Good stuff.

    Future 2 Future (2001) - He's got electronic again :D I've not got into this one properly, actually.

    So there ya go :)

    I reckon the ones you'll probably wanna stay away from Howard are: Feets Don't Fail Me Now, Monster, Magic Windows, Lite Me Up, Future Shock, Sound System, and Perfect Machine.
  7. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I believe Wayne, at least, may be closer to 70 than 60.
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well I have the following, with my comments:

    Some early album I cant remember the name of, with several takes of watermelon man - well, it's great

    Mwandishi (1971)
    Crossings (1972)
    I dig both of these, but I have to be alone and in the right mood. I mean I love the weirdness, but it definitely has a time and a place!

    Head Hunters (1973)
    Thrust (1974)
    Man Child (1975)
    - all three are just bbwwaa, shhttssa aa (leave me speachelss!) :)

    Sunlight (1978) - 'cheesy' - i can listen to a bout two tracks before i start to twitch!

    Feets Don't Fail Me Now (1979) - i love this one!! the slap bass on 'tell everybody' is fantastic (one i copied almost immediatley!), as are the synth roto toms! boo-b-b-ba-booo!

    Future Shock (1983) - OK, rockit is cool, but the rest of the album is just too dodgy imo!ground breaking yes, but also rather dodgy by todays standard.

    hancock/brecker/hargrove (is that right) live celebrating trane/davis - thsi is great, but again a bit too full on for me... i dont understand jazz enough to get into this properly - although i can sit through three tracks before my brain starts to ache!

    Future 2 Future (2001) - i dig this one, perhaps because i was well into the drum&bass scene when it started out. and the mix of d&b and jazz grooves is spot on. plus, nice b lines.

    i have a few others too, the Death Wish soundtrack for example, which is just fantastic - film soundtracks are just brilliant i think, they're mood music, but because you dont get shown the mood by the movie you get to make up your own :D

    oen i really want a copy of is "Flood" - a japanese only issue of the headhunters live in japan! apparentlty only available on 20bitCD or vinyl... also apprantly a very experimental album as the japanese jazz audience was more into the "weird stuff" when headhunters toured.
  9. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Ahh, you're right. I just checked. 1933 he was born. He's 70 this year!

    I went to see him a few months back. He doesn't look 70!!

    Herbie was born April 12th 1940, which makes him 63.
  10. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    You may well like Dis Is Da Drum then.
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    in which case, thrust and man-child are definite must haves! ...as is the latst future 2 future IMO..
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes it was pretty good - at about 10.35 pm Sunday evening.

    I bet you also missed the Stan Tracey documentary on BBC3 - now that was a rarity! A TV documentary on a great British Jazz pianist!

  13. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I don't have BBC3 anyway.
  14. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    That Stan Tracey documentary was EXCELLENT! I don't think I had ever heard of him, but the label "godfather of British jazz" seems to be quite appropriate. I have been trying to get hold of some of his older recordings, but many aren't available on CD as best as I can tell. I've just ordered 'Under Milk Wood' ('Starless And Bible Black' gave me goosebumps!), but I'm also on the lookout for any of his large-group recordings from the late '70s (the documentary had some teasing footage with some great sounding music) - if anyone sees these, please let me know.

    Back to Herbie, 'Flood' is going to get a domestic release. I did see a release date on the Legacy Recordings website some time ago, but it seems to have vanished.
  15. Well, I have nothing to add about Mr. Hancock's aesthetic arc, but from what I've learned about Buddhism, it helps reduce stress. It won't eliminate problems from your life, but it keeps you in tune with what's important and what's not, and gives you the confidence to deal with anything that might come along as well as the clarity to make causes that will improve the condition of your life. So you don't end up furrowing your brow & getting wrinkles, or elevating your blood pressure and getting heart attacks, or destroying your immune system and getting sick as much as people who don't have a way of dealing.

    Carlos Santana is a Buddhist also.

  16. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I like the VSOP double LP from, I believe, the late '70s (don't have it in front of me to verify the date, but I associate it with a certain girlfriend I was with around then ...) It had Herbie, Wayne, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Doing mostly familiar material, but they were clearly having fun doing it.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I saw Stan Tracey's Octet play several times and they were certainly a great live experience - his son Clark on drums and some of the best players from the British Jazz scene.

    About that time I picked up the album Genesis - which is a CD of big-band music - all originals arranged by Stan - a lot of which was played by the Octet as well.

    I also have "Under Milkwood" - tenor player on that album - Bobby Wellins - teaches on the Jazz Summer School I attend regularly.
  18. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK

    Yup, that's a good album I neglected to mention. They do a range of material - the older stuff like Maiden Voyage & Eye Of The Hurricane, as well as some of the sextet stuff ("You'll Know When You Get There"), and some of the funk stuff (e.g. "Spider" from Secrets).
  19. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I missed this the first time round! You bastard! :D

    I didn't know he was in the UK!

    I'll have to see if I can catch one of the concerts.
  20. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    There were two VSOP double albums...right?
    I have the one with the black cover; I believe the other had a picture of Herbie.

    A must-have is Hancock's Complete Blue Note Recordings; I picked that up for $30 a few years back. Awesome stuff. "The Egg" rocks & The Prisoner is an overlooked gem, IMO.

    A word about Herbie doin' Disco.
    More than a few Jazzers of that era were lured into doing radio-friendly Disco-fied albums...i.e. playing 'dumbed-down muzak for the masses' in order to make a buck.
    How 'bout Freddie Hubbard's Windjammer?

    I would say it quite a while for me to warm up to "Rockit"...seeing a LIVE band kick that tune's ass made me a believer. ;)