The Best of Herbie Hancock (1979)

Kronomyth: DA BEST OF DEFUNCT. In the second half of the Seventies, Herbie Hancock put most of his energy into advancing the state of jazz/funk in the world. Initially (i.e., Headhunters), Hancock’s exploration of funk led to one of the more exciting musical adventures in modern music. Over time, however, the experiment began to feel formulaic as Hancock moved his experiment from the laboratory to the dance floor. This compilation provides a brief summary of a very fertile period that included several crossover hits, all of which are included here. You’ll find the insidiously funky “Chameleon” from Headhunters, the lovely jazz/funk hybrid of “I Thought It Was You” from Sunlight, the epic “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” from Man-Child and the indestructible “Doin’ It” from Secrets. Also included here are two tracks from Hancock’s most recent effort, Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: “Tell Everybody” (here presented in its disco mix version) and “Ready Or Not” (replaced by “You Bet Your Love” in the UK, where it was a Top 20 hit). FDFMN found Hancock shifting toward disco music, which has not endeared it to music critics, although there’s little question that Hancock elevates the medium even if the sum result seemed like slumming to some. Although Hancock did release a few more disco albums into the new decade, their achievements are superseded by what’s here. When this compilation was released on CD in the 80s, digital technology was perceived as its own value-add, and so Columbia simply re-issued it with the same six tracks. The decision not to expand on this in the last 25 years speaks to a cooling interest in Hancock’s funk phase. The Best of Herbie Hancock remains a good, succinct entrypoint into one of Hancock’s most creative (if least understood) periods.

The Songs
A1. Doin’ It (Remix) (Melvin Ragin/Ray Parker Jr.) (6:43)
A2. I Thought It Was You (Herbie Hancock/Jeffrey Cohen/Melvin Ragin) (8:55)
A3. Chameleon (Paul Jackson/Harvey Mason/Bennie Maupin/Herbie Hancock) (7:38)
B1. Hang Up Your Hang Ups (Herbie Hancock/Melvin Ragin/Paul Jackson) (7:27)
B2a. Ready Or Not (Ray Parker Jr./Jeffrey Cohen) (6:30)
B2b. (UK version) You Bet Your Love
B3. Tell Everybody (Disco Version) (Hancock/David Rubinson/Jeffrey Cohen/Bruce Good) (7:48)

The Players
Herbie Hancock with Art Baldacci (background vocals), Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums on track 2), Michael Clark (drums on track 4), Fred Dobbs (background vocals), Coke Escovedo (timbales on track 5), Sheila Escovedo (percussion, timblaes, congas on tracks 5 & 6), James Gadson (drums, backround vocals on tracks 1 & 6), Paul Jackson (bass on tracks 3 & 4), Don Kerr (background vocals), Chris Mancini (background vocals), Harvey Mason (drums on track 3), Bennie Maupin (saxes, flute, bass clarinet on tracks 3 & 4), Byron Miller (bass on tracks 2), Kenneth Nash (percussion), Ray Obiedo (guitar on track 6), Ray Parker Jr., (guitar, drums, background vocals on tracks 1, 2 & 5), Raul Rekow (congas on track 2), Bill Summers (percussion on tracks 3 & 4), The Waters: Oren, Maxine, Julia and Luther (vocals, background vocals on tracks 5 & 6), Eddie Watkins (bass on track 6), Wah Wah Watson (guitar,  bass, voice bag vocals on tracks 1, 2 & 4). Produced by David Rubinson & Friends, Inc. and Herbie Hancock; associate producers: Wah Wah Watson (track 1), Jeffrey Cohen (tracks 5 & 6); engineered by Fred Catero, David Rubinson, Michael Fusaro (track 1), Don Miley (track 6), Tim Rivers (track 6), Jeremy Zatkin (track 3).

The Plastic
Released on elpee and cassette in 1979 in the US (Columbia, JC/JCT 36309), the UK (CBS, 84106/40-84106) and the Netherlands (CBS, CBS 84o76). Re-issued on elpee in the 1980s in the UK (CBS, 32526). UK version replaces “Ready Or Not” with “You Bet Your Love.” Re-released on CD on 1986 or September 13, 1988 in the US (Columbia, CK 36309).

The Pictures
Cover art and design by Anne Garner. Back photo by Kaz Tsuruta. Art direction by Nancy Donald.

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