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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2006
Format: Audio CD
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The second of three collaborations with producer/bassist BillLaswell, SOUND SYSTEM at times finds new twists balancingstate-of-the-art studio production techniques with street-wise melodies and rhythms that began with 1983's FUTURE SHOCK. On several tracks such world-beat incorporations as the kora (an African stringed instrument) diversify the overall sound, which at other times seem entirely made up of "artificial" synthesized and sampled sounds (particularly on METAL BEAT). The opening track HARD ROCK is a blatant recycling of the FUTURE SHOCK hit ROCKIT, with some metallic guitar added into the mix in spots. Here and throughout most of the album, Hancock plays primarily background synth figures...he has an ear for textures and catchy riffs, but his improvisational talents are almost nowhere to be found. JUNKU is a more interesting successor to ROCKIT. However, one wonders if much of the music presented here has any significant value beyond being a demonstration disc for Laswell's craftsmanship in the studio. SOUND SYSTEM's highlights are the two tracks that stray furthest from the ROCKIT formula. KARABALI evokes memories of early-period Earth Wind & Fire. Note how multi-dimensional the Hancock/Laswell approach becomes when the "jazz" talents of Herbie and guest Wayne Shorter are given the freedom to create! Then there is the Curtis Mayfield-like PEOPLE ARE CHANGING, highlighted by Bernard Fowler's soulful vocals. On both tracks there is more to admire than the technology itself. Recommendation: purchase FUTURE SHOCK first. Then buy SOUND SYSTEM if you want a like-minded sequel with several effective twists, but also some more-is-less retreads.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Sound System had the misfortune of following the megahit Future Shock (Rockit). Consequently I think that it has taken some undeserved hits from fans and critics.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Sound-System may not have a monster cut like Rockit, but it demonstrated that the second collaboration between Herbie Hancock and Bill Laswell still had the creative fire to produce unique musical pieces.

Hancock was awarded a second consective Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance for this 1984 Rockit band release.

Hardrock and Metal Beat continues Hancock's search in stretching the fusion dynamic & either cut could have easily been included in a Miles Davis studio session during the 1980s.

But its the next three selections - Karabali, Junku and People are Changing - that shows Hancock at his creative peak with the band. Wayne Shorter guests on the lyricon for Karabali, Junku was written for the 1984 Winter Games of Sarajevo and People are Changing most definitely was inspired by the great Curtis Mayfield. The title track brings the CD to a wonderfully-textured conclusion.

With Sound-System, Hancock proved that gadgets alone don't make the music; there remains the human element to bring life to the sounds.
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Format: Audio CD
With the success of Future Shock and its big hit "Rockit",Herbie had made one significant musical contribution to the 80's decade: he managed to put an instrumental dance record onto the pop charts and even the music video world. And opened up the door for other musicians such as contemporaries of his such as Jan Hammer to do the same. The following year Herbie was back in the studio with Bill Laswell to record the follow up to that album. As he was in the early 70's,Herbie was continually fascinated by how to combine the modern electronic/hip-hop sample/scratch oriented effects that interested him with the heavily Afrocentric variety of funk. Again on the heels of another possible cultural innovation,Herbie bought in the Gambian musician Foday Musa Suso,who played an electrified African string instrument called the Kora,which produced a reverb laden Harp-like effect. This would have the effect of extending even further on the musical revelations he'd made on his previous album.

"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.
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on November 14, 2013
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Sound System was part two of the Rockit Band Trilogy as it has come to be know.(Future Shock, Sound System, And Perfect Machine) Hancock was primarily know for his Jazz Music until 1983 when the album Future Shock Skyrocketed him to fame in the Early MTV era. Rockit from Future shock became a huge hit and opened up the door for Sound System. Despite the fact that Sound System was almost a carbon copy of Future Shock it was innovative enough on it's own to continue with the formers popularity. Tracks like Hardrock and Metal Beat sound as if they were done during the Future Shock Sessions. Karabali, and Junku bring to mind Hancocks African sounding phases through his career. All put a very good set maybe though just a little too much like Future Shock.
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Format: Audio CD
On "Metal Beat","Karabali" and "Junku" it would seem
that "Sound System" is taking on a much stronger feel of
world-beat African percussion in with the actually far heavier
electro-funk.But the album opener "Hard Rock" is more or less
Rockit Mach II but without the latter's prominant turntable
scraching.But it is the eerie,melodic tital track with it's
industrial-strengh beats and handclaps plus the topical
"People Are Changing",sung by the excellent Bernard Fowler that
make "Sound-System" so special to listn to.Either slap it on a
huge boom box or on high quality headphones because,like it's
predecessor,"Sound-System" COOKS!!!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Herbie Hancock has this trend to try new things, then continue them for a few albums. This could only be the follow-up to "Future Shock", which it resembles in many ways. The only blatant retread here is the lead-off "Hard Rock" - three guesses as to what other Herbie Hancock song it sounds like. That said, it isn't bad, and the rest of the album continues quite nicely. The title track is a phenomenal closer, with everything (including, I believe, the kitchen sink) thrown in. "Junku", with Foday Musa Suso contributing, is another great track. A very good, if not essential, collection
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Since Future Shock Was So Good,I Thought No Other Hancock Album Could Even Come Close To It,But I Was Awfly Surprised when I Heard This.It May Not Be Just AS Good As Future Shock,but It Comes Close.So Its A Five Star CD. also recomended:headhunters,..perfect machine and of course future shock(which of course you SHOULD already have)
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2000
Format: Audio CD
There's just no real reason to recommend this, or to listen to it. If you want to hear creative globally-tinged music check out Material's "Seven Souls". If you want to hear Herbie play funky check out "Thrust". But there's nothing here to enjoy.
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