September 17, 1984 12:00 PM

Herbie Hancock

Hancock has a distinguished background as a jazz pianist, and his last album, the electrified if not electrifying Future Shock, was a big pop hit, so he deserves more tolerant listening than most performers would. Tolerance aside, there is not much to this set of further explorations into the use of computers, synthesizers and various mechanical manipulations to create something called “electro-funk.” Too many of the tunes sound like rhythm tracks waiting for someone to dub a melodic line over them. On Hardrock, for instance, in which Hancock is listed as playing the Fairlight CMI, Rhodes Chroma, Apple He, Yamaha DX7, Emu 4060 and digital keyboard, the result is like six minutes of introductory riffs. It comes as a relief to hear more orthodox tracks: Karabali, on which Hancock fills vividly behind Wayne Shorter’s soprano saxophone, and People Are Changing, which has a vocal by Bernard Fowler that recalls Sly Stone’s Everyday People. Hancock is a marvelous talent, but his exercises in this kind of synthetic music produce what is at best sophisticated disco. It is a little like Pavarotti doing a video for MTV: One can admire the enterprise without finding the results very satisfying. (Columbia)

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