Herbie Hancock ‘Sunlight’ / ‘Feets Don’t Fail Me Now’ 2CD (Robinsongs) 3/5

Disco music exploded onto the dancefloors from 1974 onwards, but went truly global after 1976 and even jazz musicians had to change attack in order to survive and indeed thrive. John Handy may have been an integral part of Charles Mingus’ band, but by the mid-1970s he had adapted his sound to record an endearing 12′ Hard work’, while trumpeter Donald Byrd was schooling a younger generation and even produced his own band, the Blackbyrds. Herbie Hancock did not buck this trend and set about combining the sophistication of jazz improvisation with the street-vibe of funk and disco. The result was the smash disco and pop hit, ‘You bet your love’, and the introduction of a new instrument, the vocoder, enabled human voices to be distorted and given an extra layer or two of sound. This introduced Hancock to a whole new audience that new nothing at all about his jazz career. Of note here is the extended 12″ bonus version of the classic disco groove that has beefed up percussion, and extra long intro and soulful background vocals. The rest of the album was not quite strong, but the B-side of the extended 12″ version of ‘You bet your love’, ‘Tell everybody’, is included and the nearest thing to the hit in terms of style and tempo.

One gripe about this re-issue. In comparison to the aforementioned Headhunters period, Robinsongs could and should have included a third album that groups together Herbie Hancock’s flirt with contemporary disco and soul. In 1981 He released, ‘Magic Windows’, the title track of which was an underground dancefloor hit and the album featured the wonderful lead vocals of Gavin Christopher and Vicki Randle as well as a guest appearance from disco diva Sylvester.
To this writer’s knowledge this album has yet to be re-issued on CD in the UK and, as an R & B flavoured release, would have sat ideally among the other two albums.

Tim Stenhouse