Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Herbie Hancock

Released 1974 on Columbia
Reviewed by Mindos, 13/11/2002ce

1. Palm Grease
2. Actual Proof
3. Butterfly
4. Spank-a-Lee

Herbie Hancoc: Keyboards, Synthesizers
Bennie Maupin: Saxes, Bass Clarinet, Alto Flute
Paul Jackson: Bass
Mike Clark: Drums
Bill Summers: Percussion

"Fusion!" They all cry. This was was released before the term "Fusion" became synonymous with the pure airbrush wank of "Tower of Power" and "Tribal Tech".

"Thrust" was the follow-up to the highly, super successful "Head Hunters", reaching number 13 on the billboard chart in 1974. But it wasn't always like this for the Herbster.

After leaving the Miles Davis Quintet in '68, Hancock, heavily influenced by the changing sounds and climate of the late 60's went on to form the septet the Mwandishi Band. They recorded three albums, but the buying public we're unreceptive and they we're a failure in a commercial sense, but they we're musically exhilarating for the listener. Around this time, Hancock was starting to get more interested in the rudimentary sounds of the first synthsizers, and the funk rhythms that had started to dominate the overall sound of the band.

With Low sales of the final album "Sextant" and the financial drain of the septet, Hancock threw in the towel and had a re-think about what he wanted to do musically.

In 1974 he teamed up with Harvey Mason, Paul Jackson and Bill Summers and Bennie Maupin (the only original member from the Mwandishi Band line up) and recorded "Head Hunters"; it must have been the brew of good solid funk with a sprinkling of jazz flavours which made the album a massive hit. This launched Hancock into a new world.

The follow-up was "Thrust" and is Hancock's masterpiece. Harvey Mason was replaced by drummer Mike Clarke and Herbie was keen that the band broke free of constraints, and to toss around some fresh ideas.

The album starts with "Palm Grease", a tight groove, damn funky, with a latin-flavoured break. Paul Jackson lays down his signature bass lines throughout. Hancock swoops in and out on his Arp synthisizer, while Maupin blows a mean bass clarinet to compliement Jackson's lucid bass licks.

Phew! Jackson and Clarke are tight monkeys on the next track "Actual Proof", never have I heard a rhythmn section so damn inventive and free. Clarke just juggles the beats, and Jackson's lines just cut to the bone. Hankcock's playing is just sublime, all the notes in his solo are not wasted as he ghost dances around his Fender keyboard.

"Butterfly" is a beautiful ballard, a real laid back tune with Maupin doubling on bass clarinet and soprano sax. The bass clarinet is sooo low, breathing deep. It's umrelenting. Hancock paints pretty pictures with his Arp, then starts a funky romp, swinging and rich.

Closing with "Spank-a Lee, a high energy romp, with a smoking bass line from Jackson. This is top class fusion before it went up it's own arse, and probably is the blueprint that started the fusion craze!

Overall, this album is a killer from start to finish, and it always brings out a huge grin on my face.

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