[Review] Herbie Hancock: Monster (1980)

A king masquerading as a Duke, as Herbie gets his funk on, this time with some help from Santana.

Kronomyth 29.0: Funkensteinowitz.

Monster is another of Herbie Hancock’s funk/disco albums. This would usually be where I begin to denigrate disco as an inferior medium for a man of his stature, but I gots a booty like everybody and sometimes it needs a good shaking. Most of the Miles contingent sacrificed a few albums to the gods of the dance, and few of them are done better than Monster. Hancock assembled an impressive arsenal of electronic keyboards, including one of the earliest appearances of the Clavitar (a combination keyboard/guitar, which you can hear put to good use on “Don’t Hold It In”). The album is also notable for appearances by Carlos Santana and Santana vocalist Greg Walker.

Every track on Monster has vocals (Hancock mercifully keeps to his keys), with guests Walker, Bill Champlin, Gavin Christopher and a returning Oren Waters each taking a turn. The rest of the band is pretty much a pick-up from his last (Sheila Escovedo, Wah Wah Watson, Freddie Washington, Ray Parker Jr.) with the new addition of Alphonse Mouzon on drums. While the album was a commercial success (half of its songs were issued as singles), there are some who would tell you that Monster is merely commercial product (in fact, I used to be one of those people). Yet the truth is that anything made out of plastic with a universal price code is product.

Hancock’s interest in disco, funk and rock is legitimate, and Monster has a lot to offer musically, from the Latin crossover of “Saturday Night” (reminiscent of Chick Corea or George Duke‘s forays into Brazilian jazz) to the intelligent funk of “Go For It” (which anticipates acts like Was Not Was). It’s obviously not the first Herbie Hancock album you need to own, but don’t let those jazz snobs scare you away from Monster. If you’re interested in hearing Hancock in a disco/funk/rock setting with vocals and guitars (and the clavitar), go for it.

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Original elpee version

A1. Saturday Night (Herbie Hancock/Jeffrey Cohen/David Rubinson) (7:13)
A2. Stars In Your Eyes (Ray Parker Jr./Herbie Hancock/Gavin Christopher) (7:01)
A3. Go For It (Alphonse Mouzon/Herbie Hancock/Jeffrey Cohen/David Rubinson) (7:28)
B1. Don’t Hold It In (Melvin Ragin/Jeffrey Cohen) (8:02)
B2. Making Love (Alphonse Mouzon/Jean Hancock) (6:23)
B3. It All Comes Round (Melvin Ragin/Jeffrey Cohen/David Rubinson) (5:50)

CD reissue bonus tracks
7. Making Love (7″ version) (3:59)
8. It All Comes Round (7″ version) (3:45)
9. Go For It (7″ version) (3:28)
10. Go For It (special 12″ version) (6:59)
11. Stars In Your Eyes (7″ version) (3:58)
12. Stars In Your Eyes (special disco remix) (11:21)

The Players

Herbie Hancock (Eu polyphonic keyboard, Clavitar, Waves minimoog, Prophet 5, Oberheim 8 voice, Yamaha C5-80, Arp 2600, Hohner clavinet, Rhodes 88 suitcase piano, Steiner EVI, Sennheiser vocoder, WLM organ, Lynn-Moffett drum synthesizer, modified Apple II Plus microcomputer, Roland CR 70, piano), Sheila Escovedo (percussion), Alphonse Mouzon (drums, synthesizer), Melvin “Wah Wah Watson” Ragin (guitar), Freddie Washington (bass), Julia Waters (backing vocals), Luther Waters (backing vocals), Oren Waters (backing vocals, lead vocals on track 3) with Bill Champlin (lead and all background vocals on track 6), Gavin Christopher (lead vocals on tracks 2 & 4), Herbie’s sister Jean Hancock (lyrics on track 5), Randy Hansen (guitar on tracks 4 & 6), Ray Parker Jr. (guitar on track 2), Devadip Carlos Santana (guitar on track 1), Greg Walker (lead vocals on tracks 1 & 5). Produced by David Rubinson; associate producer: Jeffrey Cohen; engineered by Fred Catero and David Rubinson; keyboard engineer: Bryan Bell.

The Pictures

Album cover art by cartoonist Gahan Wilson. Back cover photography by Ray Rogers.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in April 1980 in the US (Columbia, JC 36415), the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, S CBS 84237) and Japan (CBS/Sony, 25AP 1854); reached #94 on the US charts, #19 on the US R&B charts and #3 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Columbia, PC/PCT 36415).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1991 in the US (Columbia, CK 36415).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1997 in Europe (Sony, 486571).
  4. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1998 in Europe (Sony International, SRCS-9505).
  5. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2015 in Japan (Solid, CDSOL-8476) with 6 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-issued on compact disc on October 26, 2016 in Japan (Columbia, SICJ 134).

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