[Review] Herbie Hancock: Sound-System (1984)

The not-quite-as-shocking sequel to Future Shock, featuring more futuristic funk.

Kronomyth 36.0: Shock to the system.

Think this shocking sequel is immaterial? Then maybe you never had the stomach for the future. Not launching another “Rockit” into the airwaves would be like shutting down the space program after the first moonwalk. Sound-System continues the revolutionary reinvention of music introduced on Future Shock: a wild post-modern mix of mechanical beats, electronic sounds, funk, jazz and rock.

What Herbie Hancock and Bill Laswell had created with Future Shock was a marvelous melting pot of music that connected jazz with the cutting edge of club mixes. Sound-System puts more into the pot, from African pop (“Junku”) to Santana-styled Latin fusion (“Karabali”). A good half of the record is Rockit Redux, including the singles “Hardrock” (which features a rock guitar lead) and “Metal Beat.” But the real ear-openers on here are “Junku” and “Sound System,” which bring the exotic sounds of Foday Musa Suso’s kora into a post-modern landscape of cut-and-paste sounds and club mixes. As if to take a break from the revolution, Hancock returns to the soul/funk of his late ‘70s work with a cover of Timmy Thomas’ obscure single, “People Are Changing,” slyly underscoring how far music (and the world around it) has changed.

If Sound-System defies easy categorization (and it certainly did in 1984), Hancock has labored to break down the walls that would contain jazz into a single box. He embraced electronic keyboards and funk/dance before his contemporaries and remains fearless in his pursuit of personal fusion with the world around him. The art of mixing has seldom found such an elevated platform, and students of the style would do well to sit at the foot of Sound-System and Future Shock and learn from an early master (Bill Laswell). In 1999, the disc was digitally remastered and the extended remix of “Metal Beat” appended.

Original elpee version

A1. Hardrock (Herbie Hancock/Bill Laswell/Derek Showard) (6:10)
A2. Metal Beat (Herbie Hancock/Bill Laswell) (4:56)
A3. Karabali (Herbie Hancock/Daniel Poncé) (5:17)
B1. Junku (Herbie Hancock/Bill Laswell/Foday Musa Suso/Aiyb Dieng) (5:32)
B2. People Are Changing (Timmy Thomas) (6:05)
B3. Sound System (Herbie Hancock/Bill Laswell/Foday Musa Suso) (5:55)

CD reissue bonus track
7. Metal Beat (Extended Version) (Herbie Hancock/Bill Laswell) (6:45)

The Players

Herbie Hancock (Fairlight CMI, Rhodes Chroma, Apple IIE, Yamaha DX7, EMU 4060 digital keyboard, piano, Memorymoog, clavinet), Will Alexander (Fairlight programming), Aiyb Dieng (talking drum, chatan, bells), D.S.T. (Derek Showard) (turntable, FX), Anton Fier (Simmons drums, soundplate, cuica, cymbals, gong, TR-808, woodblock, percussion, Synare timpani), Bernard Fowler (voice, vocal arrangement on track 5), Bill Laswell (bass, DMX, tapes), Foday Musa Suso (dusunguni, balophone, kora, kalimba, guitar, talking drum) with Hamid Drake (cymbals on tracks 3 and 6), Henry Kaiser (guitar on tracks 1, 2 and 7), Toshinori Kondo (speaker and trumpet on tracks 2, 6 and 7), Daniel Poncé (bata, bells and shekere on tracks 1 and 3), Wayne Shorter (lyricon on tracks 2, 3 and 7), Nicky Skopelitis (ELD on track 1, guitar on track 6), Rob Stevens (XMD and Praxis programming on tracks 1 and 4). Produced by Bill Laswell/Material and Herbie Hancock. Engineered by Rob Stevens, Billy Youdelman and Lawrence A. Duhart; mixed by Dave Jerden. I’ve always found the old synthesizers fascinating. On the off chance that you do to, here’s a great page about the Memorymoog on Vintage Synth Explorer.

The Pictures

Computer-generated image by David Em, liner photography by Goff Thomas. 1999 reissue art direction by Howard Fritzson, design by Randall Martin.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, CD and cassette in January 1984 in the US (Columbia, FC/CK/PCT-39478), the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, 26062), Australia (CBS, SBP-238026) and Japan (CBS/Sony, 32DP-177). Reached #71 on the US charts and #7 on the US Jazz charts. Won Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1999 in the US (Columbia Legacy, CK-65961) with one bonus track.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *