Sound System Original recording remastered, Import
When Herbie Hancock's Sound System was released in 1984, critics slammed it as a commercially driven, derivative follow-up to Future Shock and its hit single "Rockit." Hancock's jazz audience, on the other hand, just slammed it, period. Remastered with one bonus remix and an unrevealing interview with producer Bill Laswell, this reissue offers the chance to listen to Sound System outside of its original 1980s context and reveals it as a more interesting release than was given credit at the time. Critics certainly had a point when they called Sound System a rip-off of its predecessor. The opening "Hardrock" in particular sounds like a conscious attempt at duplicating "Rockit," from its electronic drum programming to its synthesizer melody and turntable scratching. But elsewhere on the album, Hancock and Laswell's crew of conspirators (which include many of the same musicians involved in the latter's experimental Material albums from the same period) get into areas that are more far-reaching than anything on Future Shock. The most welcome addition is West African harpist Foday Musa Suso, whose beautiful kora and balophone textures inject "Metal Beat," "Junku," and the title track with world-fusion flavors. There's also Wayne Shorter, whose lyricon (a cousin of the soprano saxophone) graces "Metal Beat" and "Karabali," and percussionist Ayb Dieng, whose talking drum serves to enhance Laswell's industrial-tinged production. --Ezra Gale
つまり、ビル・ラズウェルという才能がこのサウンドを創っていることは明白で、フェアライトCMI、フェンダー・ローデス、クローマ、ヤマハDX7、EMU4060といった名機たちをApple IIEに繋ぎ創り出したサウンドは今聴いても凄い。エレクトリック・ハービーの完成型がこのアルバムであることは間違いない。メンバーの中では他に近藤等則がタイトル曲等で参加していてすばらしい音を出している。近藤等則は『近藤等則 & IMA』を結成したのが1983年なので、サウンド的にもかなり似ている。
"Hard Rock","Metal Beat" and the closing title track are all very much in line with the approach of "Rockit",but the instrumental sound is very different. The rhythmic patterns,keyboard parts and the addition of the Kora on the title song especially infuse these songs with an enormous Afro-Latin quality about them-which draws out the expansiveness of the groove and manage to make the electronics of it seem totally non-rigid. "Karabali" has almost no relation to these songs at all-its an almost totally African,almost Cameroonian Makossa beat type number built heavily around Suso's Kora. "Junku" perfectly blends the tight and danceable electro-funk sound of Herbie's with the same Kora sound. Bernard Fowler returns for another vocal number in the bluesy funk of "People Are Changing",very much a generational cautionary take where Herbie delights on both synthesizer and acoustic piano alternately. The bonus track is an extended version of "Metal Beat",which draws out the African percussion element even more.
Something tells me this album didn't resonate with the public the same as its predecessor had. And it isn't because the album is too repetitious of it. It actually isn't at all. But the basis for all of the songs on this album are African oriented drum patters and different rhythmic ideas-with anything American blues based rarely being showcased. While this album is chocked full of massively grooving break dance friendly electro funk,the basis for it isn't particularly American it all. It takes the heavy Afro-Latin influence of the previous album to a whole other level in fact. In many ways,that makes this one of Herbie's best albums of the 80's as the music is extremely close to his heart in the sense of being technically futurist yet rhythmically grounded in the tradition of the Earth itself. Manu DiBango himself could extend on the sound from his album in particular on his own release from the following year Electric Africa. As for this,Herbie may very well have sparked the public's interest in Africa and African musical rhythms during the mid 1980's. So again Herbie himself gained some success for himself while being a trailblazer.
I give Herbie and Bill Laswell credit for throwing some new elements into the mix on this album. OK, Hardrock was supposed to be the next hit, but it is harder-edged and industrial than Rockit. I also really enjoy it. There are some more organic sounds in the mix from Wayne Shorter and Foday Musa Suso - love that kora playing on Junku!
This album is a bit uneven in places. Metal Beat is a bit spotty and People Are Changing doesn't quite work for me, although Herbie's piano stands out nonetheless. However Junku is darn near perfect, Hardrock really does rock and Karabali has a good world music mix with piano, sax and African percussion.
Sound System mixed elements of industrial and world music before those terms became household expressions. Also the African-style chanting on Karabali predates Paul Simon's Graceland. This isn't a classic in my book, but it holds up well. I picked it up as soon as it was reissued and still enjoy it.