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Music Review: Herbie Hancock – Thrust

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There was a period in the mid 1970’s that fusion took a serious detour into funk. This was reflected in the mainstream with Quincy Jones’ famous “Sanford And Son” TV theme. Miles Davis was exploring this direction pretty seriously with his On The Corner LP also. But Herbie Hancock’s 1974 album Thrust remains the definitive statement of the style.

Columbia Legacy has just re-released Thrust on vinyl, and it is really a nice set. The 180 gram Audiophile pressing sounds remarkably warm, much better than the original mass produced records did. Naturally, the original liner notes and packaging are intact as well.

Leaving the format aside for a moment though, Thrust is just an excellent record, one of Hancock’s best. The opening cut, “Palm Grease” is a funk workout, with obvious nods to Parliament and The Meters in the grooves. “Actual Proof” continues in this vein, with great solos by everyone, particularly by Hancock himself.

At 11 minutes plus, “Butterfly” was always my favorite song on Thrust. It is nowhere near as R&B oriented as the rest of the record, but sometimes a change of pace is in order. This is a languid tune, with plenty of room for the quintet to stretch out in understated improvisation. Four years later, Steely Dan would use “Butterfly” as a blueprint of sorts for Aja. In the Eighties this sound would come to be known as “Quiet Storm.” Over the years, “Butterfly” has remained an extremely influential piece of music.

Thrust ends with the funkiest groove of all, “Spank-A-Lee.” Drummer Mike Clark is totally “on the one,” and Paul Jackson’s bass threatens to pop out of the speakers. Herbie Hancock’s amazing solos and synth colorings are as distinctive and unexpected as ever, and bring this four song record to a triumphant conclusion. 

In any format, Thrust is a great recording. But my recommendation is for you to pull the old turntable out of mothballs and fire up this new vinyl version. It sounds so good, you may wonder why you ever switched over to CDs in the first place.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • Tony

    That’s a pretty tall order calling Thrust “the definitive statement of the style.” It’s an amazing album but I’d have to still go with another Miles selection not mentioned, Bitches Brew. Technically “fusion” started with In a Silent Way, but if you’re speaking only about the fusion-funk hybrid I would say that Bitches Brew is definately definitive.

  • A.

    I would hardly say that Bitches Brew is the definitive funk-fusion record. There’s some funky moments but its showcase is not funk, there is much more stuff going on. Thrust is the definitive jazz-funk album to me. No one plays grooves like that. Combine the East Bay funk style of Tower of Power and Cold Blood, make them even funkier and add Herbie’s keyboards and arranging over it, you have the definitive “jazz-funk” record.

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