Customer Reviews: Possibilities
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on August 31, 2005
The pre-release word-of-blog regarding POSSIBILITIES among a number of long-time Herbie Hancock fans has largely been suspicious of this album's potential for bridging stylistic gaps among some, if not all of the album's guests. And the Starbucks connection also left many seeing this as a marketing gimmick. Well, even if it was built to attract fans of the guests as much or more than Hancock, the bottom line is: does the music succeed as an effective reflection of Herbie's strengths, as well as being a compatible showcase for the guests?

I would say the answer is usually one or the other, but only occasionally both. If you are a Hancock fan who wants to hear him to best advantage, you'll have to satisfied on much of POSSIBILITIES with nice acoustic piano solos that sound overdubbed after-the-fact onto tracks he otherwise doesn't seem to be much involved in. Roughly half the tracks fall into that category (including ones with John Mayer, Santana & Angelique Kidjo, and Jonny Lang & Joss Stone). Herbie seems more in the center of things on the other half, such as on worthwhile tracks by Sting, Paul Simon, Damien Rice & Lisa Hannigan, and even the Christina Aguilera cut works both sides of the fence quite well. Yet only on the final track "Gelo Na Montanha" is Herbie in the forefront from beginning to end. In my opinion, this CD would have been a more effective Herbie Hancock album if it had a 50/50 mix of the most successful vocal/piano collaborations with instrumentals that allow Herbie to be the star of his own show (ala recent Santana albums that were roughly a half-Santana, half Santana-with-guests split).

If the guest list generally looks attractive to the potential buyer, I think you're more likely to be satisfied with this album. All of the vocalists come off at or near the top of their game. The Mayer track should please his fans, even if to Hancock followers the union of these two seems quite square peg/round hole. Christina shows off a more mature side than on most of her own tracks on "A Song For You." "Safiatou" (with Santana and Angelique Kidjo) is an excellent collaboration that would elevate any of Santana's most recent CDs. For Hancock fans however, again he sounds like he is a part atop of the track rather than within it. Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called..." gets a more reflective treatment than the original hit version. While Raul Midon handles the vocal well, it's hard not to wish Stevie had taken the lead, particularly being that he is already on the track (on harmonica).

The album's worst moment ends arguably its most moving performance: Annie Lennox's vocal of Paula Cole's tune "Hush Hush Hush." What's there is exquisite, but when Herbie starts to solo -- perfectly taking off from Lennox's vocal -- the track FADES OUT! Note to producers: that ruined the mood! Overall, as I mentioned earlier, POSSIBILITIES will probably connect with the listener who is more attracted to the guest list than the star, albeit to whatever extent that Herbie is heard, he sounds in fine form. This long-time Hancock fan obviously hopes for a bit more when buying his albums, but I'd say POSSIBILITIES comes across as a pretty effective pop culture mixtape (with Hancock as the link to all cuts).
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on September 29, 2005
I had read about this CD long before it was released and was excited to see Herbie Hancock would be collaborating with quite a few of my favourites; Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, Santana, John Mayer, Annie Lennox and Sting to name a few. Comprising mostly covers with a couple of co-writes by Hancock, and the talents of the featured guests, however, I must confess, there was also the slight nagging fear that it might turn out to be some glossy, over produced commercial pop shlock.

One listen tells you this isn't so. Classy production, the vocal or instrumental skills of the guests which do not detract from, or overshadow the excellent piano playing of the man himself, make for a beautiful musical experience.

My favourites have got to be the lush, drawn out jazzy, totally transformed performance of `I just called to say I love you' featuring Raul Midón on vocals and Stevie Wonder on Harmonica on the last minute and a half of the song, and a beautifully melancholic piano sprinkled version of Billie Holliday's `Don't explain' featuring Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan (what a voice she has and excellent phrasing) on dreamy vocals, a beautiful weeping cello solo, and almost-not-there shuffling percussion. My absolute favourite!

`Gelo na montanha' is a Hancock co-composition, a beautiful instrumental number with guitar (and Ooo vocals) from Trey Anastasio (formerly of Phish). Opening track is the Hancock/Mayer composition `Stitched up' featuring John Mayer on guitar and vocals, sounding a wee bit like a piano laden Sting number. 'When Love Comes To Town' featuring Jonny Lang and Joss Stone is a blues-y take on the U2 song.

Other standouts include `A song for you' featuring the fiery vocals of Christina Aguilera (she should sing more stuff like this), `I do it for you' featuring the delicate vocals of Paul Simon, `Sister moon' featuring Sting, `Hush, hush, hush' featuring Annie Lennox, and the latin tinged percussion rich `Safiatou' featuring Santana on guitar and African singer Angélique Kidjo on vocals (and which wouldn't sound out of place on a Santana CD).

Great liner notes tell us a bit of Hancock's musical feats and influences, as well as the inspiration behind, and recording of the tracks.

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on September 24, 2005
The reviewers that do not like for the most part are true jazz purists. They have an indignance about this that reminds me of Bob Dylan being booed the first time he pulled out his electric guitar at a folk festival in the mid 60's. Come on this is great stuff. One of the best songs John Mayer has ever recorded is the discs opener "Stitched Up". The keyboards are killer. This song is a turn it up real loud and drive down the coast highway on a sunny day kinda song. At least it was until gas started climbing to 5 bucks a gallon. Don't turn that cd player down yet. The next song has Carlos Santana and Angelique Kidjo joining Herbie. If you don't move to this song, you're dead. the disc's biggest surprise is the third cut with Christina Aguilera singing Leon Russel's classic "Song For You". OK, here's my snobbery showing but who would have thought she had those pipes. Been a long time since I'd heard a "Song For You" and I love Herbie's arrangement. Paul Simon's colloboration is surprisingly the discs weakest collaboration. The disc has two other standout tracks. Annie Lennox is the only artist that I know of where everything she's done for the last quarter century has been a constent improvement over her earlier work. "Hush, Hush, Hush" is a great little Annie Lennox fix until her follow up to "Bare". "When Love Comes to Town" teams up Jonny Lang and Joss Stone for a bluesy rendition of the U2 song. It is my second favorite song to John Mayer's. They could do the entire grammy show with this cast of performers. Hell, maybe they will.
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on October 21, 2005
I'm not often moved to write reviews, but I have to rebut one of the earlier comments I read here. This is a reasonable album that is totally redeemed by the fantastic interpretation of "Hush, Hush, Hush." The reviewer who complained about Annie Lennox's fade out (which then transitions into some Hancock solo work) totally misses the narrative point of the song. As the character being addressed drifts into what is probably his final sleep, the vocal slips away and a dramatic (and deeply satisfying) harmonic shift takes focus. It's the musical equivalent of the bright white light - brilliant musical storytelling, and utterly moving. It is reason alone to buy the album.
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on October 24, 2006
For those of us who fear that "American Idol" is in the process of ruining an entire generation of performers, this disc gives hope. In making this record, Herbie has taught an entire roster of "stars" that part being a star is to know that every note DOESN'T HAVE TO BE over-sung or over-played. This set is packed with wonderfully matched songs and artists with arrangement that bring out the best in all.

The singing of Paul Simon, Annie Lennox, Damien Rice with Lisa Hannigan and John Mayer is top notch. And, Christina Aquilera has NEVER sounded this good!

And one final thing. The control and restraint by Herbie Hancock is amazing. Don't worry. He GETS his moments to shine on this disc. But he is masterful in getting out of the way so others can share the spotlight.

POSSIBILITIES is fun and uplifting. At other points, it is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly sad discs that I've ever heard. It will always be in my music collection and will offer different things to appreciate with each listening. BUY THIS ONE!!!!
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on October 1, 2005
My wife (who is the named holder of our amazon acct) warned me of the new cd in slot 4 in my car -- The sound production is incredible, and I fell into this entire cd like strawberries into rich whipped cream -- the high emotions and depth of jazz to jazz fusion to simply lucious vocals (ok, so pop is pop, but this is different) -- everyone pulled an incredible outpouring, with Herbie seeming to have been the catalyst.

I find myself pulled backwards into times and memories that now come back alive in a fresh way.... Expect to be challenged and rewarded.
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VINE VOICEon August 31, 2005
I love it when musicians collaborate on an album like this, because it gives me a chance to listen to performers I know very little about. It is wonderful to see a legend like Herbie Hancock on the music scene again. I have been a fan of his music since I heard the song RockIt in the early 80s. My favorite track is When Love Comes to Town featuring blues guitarist Jonny Lang. I love his vocals and his guitar playing blew me away. I think John Mayer is one of most talented young artists out there, and I'm glad he makes a contribution here with the first track Stitched Up. The bass on this song sounds sexy and smooth. Safiatou is another one of my favorites on this album. Carlos Santana gives this track a nice latin flavor with his hypnotic guitar licks. Angelique sounds so good on vocals here too. I think this is a nice song to dance to. There is a track on here entitled Sister Moon performed by Sting. This song has a very groovy bass beat sound that sounds so smooth. I think Herbie compliments Sting's vocals superbly on the keyboard here. I love Raul Midon's version of I Just Called To Say I Love You. It has a slower tempo than the original. I think this version is just as pretty though. I enjoyed Stevie Wonder's harmonica playing on this track too. Pop diva Christina Aguilera lends her incredible vocal talents on the track A Song For You. This is a very pretty song. I think Herbie accompanies her well on the piano keyboard. Don't Explain is a lovely song performed by Lisa Hannigan. Herbie's piano playing gives this song a very subtle romantic quality. I really enjoyed listening to this CD, and I would recommend it to anyone.
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on January 25, 2015
I remember hearing some of these songs on the radio when the album was first released like "Stitched Up" featuring John Mayer, but after watching the documentary about the making of the album I discovered some other gems. I purchased the entire album only recently, but it is a new favorite for listening at home and in the office. This version of "I Just Called to Say I Love You," is rich and soulful, officially my new favorite arrangement of that piece. "When Love Comes to Town," featuring Jonny Lang and Joss Stone on vocals picks of the tempo with a style that reminds me of the old Tina Turner tune, "Nutbush City Limits."

All in all, it's like a great little dish of mixed nuts. You can pick around and pull out something that suits nearly any mood or simply let the entire album play for an hour or so of great vocals mixed with the amazing Herbie Hancock on piano. It's rare for me to purchase entire albums in recent years versus a few individual songs. This is the rare collection where most songs are five stars for me and only a couple rate a four of five on my personal scale simply as a matter of my particular preferences. The quality is consistently good for all.
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on September 27, 2005
Much of the discussion about this disc relates to whether this is a Herbie sell-out with the vast mix is musical styles and the shared spotlight with other artists. While I find the discussions entertaining, I personally don't find that they have anything to do with the music or the album as a whole. As a thought experiment, strip away that this is a Herbie Hancock CD or that the spotlight is shared with a diverse group of performers and then ask yourself whether you like the album. Stop trying to figure out whether Herbie should or should not have done it - figure out if you think that it is musically very good on its own!

For me, the answer is a resounding `yes', this is a CD that will get a lot of play on my system. Like most CDs that mix various styles throughout, there are some tracks that I don't warm to. And, if I were creating my own CD-R (for my personal use only, of course!) I would probably cut out a few that are on this CD. While the tracks incorporate many musical genres (jazz, soft rock, R&B, etc.), the overall effect is almost a `pop' CD. But don't dismiss it as lightweight. Some of the time signature overlays as well as the key changes and progressions are often subtle. And it is the subtlety and musical texture that is the most masterful part of the musical presentation. The tracks featuring Paul Simon, Annie Lennox, Sting, Damien Rice / Lisa Hannigan are probably my favorites, but the John Mayer, Christina Aguilera (a real surprise for me!) and Jonny Lang / Joss Stone are not far behind.

Perhaps this is not the best Herbie Hancock album out there. If what you are looking for is traditional Hancock performance you may be disappointed. If you do not hold some of the other featured artists as being up to Herbie's standard, you will find reasons to hate the CD, too. But if you approach it NOT as a pure Herbie Hancock CD and simply sit and listen, I think you will find some excellent songs, tastefully performed, with solid integration of the artists (for the most part), and incorporating subtle, yet complex, jazz motifs. In other words, I think you will find a lot to like and a lot to enjoy in this CD. Well worth the price.
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on February 6, 2006
I think Herbie did a good job. Some of the tracks in this album are inspiring (i.e. his performance with Annie lennox, Sting, John Mayer, and Joss Stone to name a few). The last two tracks are sort of weak but the others more than make up for it. A good array of styles here! but overall a great jazz/pop, jazz/blues and jazz/rock album.
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