Saturday, November 19, 2005

Herbie Hancock: The Vocoder Years

Always going about his music business with his mad scientist like detail, it seems Herbie couldn't resist the vocoder's charms. As he broached the pure fusion market, the vocoder was his weapon of "destruction" on most of his late '70s and early '80s albums. Although his albums did remain tasteful, he brought something else to the party. What was it? His own voice synthesized through electronics gone mad. This is when fans heard Herbie's "romantic" warblings on yearning ballads like, "Come Running" and "Trust Me." And trust me you haven't lived or loved until you've heard lyrical bromides filtered through total hardware and from someone who simply can't sing. Of all the players who did this deal, Hancock always seemed to have a sense of humor about it and his work is instantly recognizable. Still it's going to be either loved or hated.

Herbie full of contrition after his "Vibe Alive" dance

The High Point: On Herbie's 1982 album Lite Me Up, he did a ballad with Patrice Rushen called, "Give it All You've Got." They did their "duet" singing through vocoders. Shortly after this Hancock decided to employ his vocoder in a more stark/eerie direction. Great idea...

The Vocoder History: Hancock's peak vocoder work can be heard on Sunlight, Feets Don't Fail Me Now, Monster, Mr. Hands, Magic Windows, Lite Me Up, Future Shock, Sound System and Perfect Machine

Herbie accepting his award for "Best Vocoder Ever."

Oh hi. Here's something I did on Herbie Hancock for Soul Train.
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