Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Herbie Hancock - Future Shock

This month marks the release of Future Shock, the thirty-fifth album from jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. It was his first foray in to the Electro-funk genre. Working with him on the record were Bill Laswell (bass), Pete Cosey (electric guitar), Michael Beinhorn (keyboards), Daniel Ponce (percussion), Sly Dunbar (drums and percussion), Dwight Jackson Jr. (vocals) and Lamar Wright (vocals).

The Platinum selling album charted at number 51 in Japan, number 43 on the US Billboard 200 Album chart, number 27 in the UK, number 25 in France, and number 22 in Germany. It also reached number 19 in Sweden, number 16 in the Netherlands, number 10 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 9 in Switzerland and number 2 on the US Billboard Jazz chart.

Side one takes off with “Rockit”, a single which charted at number 10 in Sweden, number 9 in Canada, number 8 in the UK, number 7 in Austria, the Netherlands and New Zealand, number 6 in Germany, and number 4 in Belgium and Switzerland. Here in the US, it charted at number 71 on the Billboard Hot 200, number 6 on the Billboard R&B chart and number 1 on the Billboard Dance chart. The song won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance while its innovative music video, directed by Godley and Crème, won a number of MTV Music Video Awards in 1984. This instrumental groove was a huge party track during my first year of college, both in the clubs and at campus events. With the volume cranked, the irresistible bass on this one shakes the house. D.S.T. (Derek Showard), a prominent Manhattan mix-master, provided the scratching turntable effects for the song and album.

“Future Shock”, featuring Jackson on vocals, is a cover of a tune by Curtis Mayfield from his 1973 album Back to the World. An edited down version of this eight-minute danceable track charted as a single at number 54 in the UK.

“TFS” closes out the side with a synth-prominent, up-beat instrumental. I like seeing the jazz improvisational elements played out on a new-wave/funk canvas.

Side two opens with “Earth Beat”. I like the eastern influence sounds to this one, as well as the scratching effects that approximate to some form of guttural language. It all adds up to a primeval performance.

“Autodrive”, the second single, went to number 53 in Germany, number 39 in the Netherlands, number 36 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 33 in the UK, and number 26 on the US Billboard R&B chart. I like the introduction of the straight piano element about half-way through, allowing Hancock to give his long-time fans a bit of what he was most known for.

Wright has the lead vocals on “Rough”, the closing track on the record. The deeper, laughing voice always reminds me a vindictive genie.

While I was very much familiar with the lead hit single, the rest of Future Shock managed to escape my listening sphere. However, after one listen I knew this Herbie Hancock album was a must-have for my collection. It features solid R&B grooves that would have easily fallen into the dance-influenced listening habits of my college years.


HERC said...

Man, "Rockit" really did rock it, huh?

All credit to Hancock for bringing Bill Laswell on board in his concentrated effort to sound contemporary. Laswell brought all of his Material collaborators into the studio as well fresh off their work on 1982's One Down.

The scratching riff by Grandmixer D. St. that is one of the central motifs in "Rockit" was actually released a couple months prior to Fututre Shock on the single "Crazy Cuts" which also features D. St. cutting up Chic's "Good Times".

While simultaneously working on Hancock's album, Laswell and his merry Material mates were crafting Nona Hendryx's Nona, her second solo album, which was released a couple of months after Future Shock. (Hope Nona makes an appearance on Martin's View soon. Pretty please.)

In 1984, Laswell would again produce a second consecutive Grammy winning Herbie Hancock album (Sound System) as well as Hendryx's follow-up The Art Of Defense. But the most revelatory work Laswell released in 1984 was the collaborative unit known as Time Zone and their genre-smashing single "World Destruction" featuring hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and punk rock survivor John(ny Rotten) Lydon.

Laswell and Hancock would team up for Perfect Machine in 1988 but that "Rockit" magic was gone. Two weeks after 9/11, their (to date) last collaboration appeared: Future 2 Future. (Am I the only one that thinks Sony is dropping the ball by not releasing a comprehensive box set of Herbie Hancock/Bill Laswell stuff from 1983-1988 including demos, outtakes, single versions and remixes?)

While most music fans are either unaware of Bill Laswell's contributions or have a love/hate relationship with them, I am on Team Laswell.

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, do you have a date for the Nona album? I am only seeing "1983" in spots on the Internet (and some erroneously as 1982). I would be happy to add it into the list if a) I can nail down an approximate date and b) find the tracks to listen to somewhere (it is not on Spotify).

HERC said...

Investigative research challenge accepted.

According to Joel Whitburn's Record Research books, the album debuted on the Billboard Top 200 pop albums chart for the week ending April 23, 1983. It charted exactly two weeks earlier (April 9, 1983) on Billboard's Black LPs chart.

Writing for Rolling Stone, Don Shewey called Nona "the finest pop-funk album since Prince's Dirty Mind" and "an unexpected tour de force" in issue #395 dated May 12, 1983, with Bowie on cover.

In the liner notes for the Funky Town Grooves 2013 reissue of the Nona CD, it is stated that "a couple of months after the release of Nona", Bill Laswell acheived his greatest degree of fame with "Rockit" which was released as a single in June 1983.

Based on the information gleaned from books, magazines and CDs, I feel confident in saying Nona was released in late March 1983. I bought the album on vinyl in late April 1983.

Take that internet!

(Not bad for 15 minutes in The Audio Archives here at The Hideaway, huh?)

Martin Maenza said...

April, eh? So I guess I will have to do it in the December recap of missed albums. Thanks for the heads up, buddy. I appreciate it.