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Brand New Sounds Inspired by the Street
on March 15, 2006
Here's one to put the proof in the pudding. Those aware of this album are divided into two camps: those who think it's a rip-off of Future Shock and those who realize FS can't hold a candle to this rock-solid effort. On Future Shock, Hancock couldn't decide if he wanted to commit all the way, resulting in some tepid material. On Sound-System, caution is thrown to the wind, no holds are barred and Herbie goes for broke. (My sentence is full of clichés. The album is not.). Listen to the title track, which is pretty much a bunch of noise pounded into a melody - shards of sound that pierce the doldrums. This is an up-to-the-minute, high-tech sound for its day. Then you've got "Karabali" and "Junku," which mash-up indigenous music and the sounds of the street with reckless abandon - like putting Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in a blender with a group of griots. Sure, "Hardrock" is a photocopy of the great, seminal "Rockit," but that sound was so new, it was worth hearing again. "People Are Changing" shifts gears yet again, a towering soul number with vocals that address the struggle for racial equality. A jazz musician in his forties was making some of the freshest, most vital "pop" music of the day, pushing boundaries and toying with the very idea of genres. Far from being scattered, "Sound-System" is darn near cathartic in its energy and willingness to try new things. Herbie wasn't just thumbing his nose at jazz purists - he plainly didn't give a ----. What "Future Shock" hinted at, "Sound-System" hit out of the park.