From V.S.O.P. (1976-) To Future Shock (1983)
During late 1970s and early 1980s, Hancock toured with his V.S.O.P. quintet, which featured all the members of the 1960s Miles Davis quintet except Davis, who was replaced by trumpet giant Freddie Hubbard. There was constant speculation, that one day Davis would reunite with his classic band, but he never did so. VSOP recorded several live albums in the late 1970s, including The Quintet (1977).
In 1978, Hancock recorded a duet with Chick Corea, who had replaced him in the Miles Davis band a decade earlier. He also released a solo acoustic piano album titled The Piano (1979), which, like so many Hancock albums at the time, was initially released only in Japan. (It was finally released in the US in 2004.) Several other Japan-only releases have yet to surface in the US, such as Dedication (1974), V.S.O.P.'s Tempest in the Colosseum (1977), and Direct Step (1978). Live Under the Sky was a VSOP album remastered for the US in 2004, and included an entire second concert from the July 1979 tour.
From 1978–1982, Hancock recorded many albums consisting of jazz-inflected disco and pop music, beginning with Sunlight (featuring guest musicians including Tony Williams and Jaco Pastorius on the last track) (1978). Singing through a vocoder, he earned a British hit, "I Thought It Was You", although critics were unimpressed. This led to more vocoder on 1979 follow-up, Feets, Don't Fail Me Now, which gave him another UK hit in "You Bet Your Love".
Albums such as Monster (1980), Magic Windows (1981), and Lite Me Up (1982) were some of Hancock's most criticized and unwelcomed albums, the market at the time being somewhat saturated with similar pop-jazz hybrids from the likes of former bandmate Freddie Hubbard. Hancock himself had quite a limited role in some of those albums, leaving singing, composing and even producing to others. Mr. Hands (1980) is perhaps the one album during this period, that was critically acclaimed. To the delight of many fans, there were no vocals on the album, and one track featured Jaco Pastorius on bass. The album contained a wide variety of different styles, including a disco instrumental song, a Latin-jazz number and an electronic piece, in which Hancock plays alone with the help of computers.
Hancock also found time to record more traditional jazz while creating more commercially oriented music. He toured with drummer Tony Williams and double-bassist Ron Carter in 1981, recording Herbie Hancock Trio, a five-track live album released only in Japan. A month later, he recorded Quartet with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, released in the US the following year 1982. Hancock, Williams and Carter toured internationally with Wynton and his brother saxophonist Branford Marsalis in what was affectionately known as "VSOP II". This quintet can be heard on Marsalis' debut album on Columbia (1981). In 1982 he contributed to the Simple Minds album New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84), playing a synthesizer solo on the track "Hunter and The Hunted".
In 1983, Hancock had a mainstream hit with the Grammy-award winning instrumental single "Rockit" from the album Future Shock. It was the first Jazz Hip-Hop song ever and became a worldwide anthem for the breakdancers and for the Hip-Hop culture of the 1980s It was also the first mainstream single to feature scratching, and also featured an innovative animated music video, which was directed by Godley and Creme and showed several robot-like artworks by Jim Whiting. The video was a hit on MTV and reached No. 8 in the UK. The video won five different categories at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards. This single ushered in a collaboration with noted bassist and producer Bill Laswell. Hancock experimented with electronic music on a string of three LPs produced by Laswell: Future Shock (1983), the Grammy-award winning Sound-System (1984) and Perfect Machine (1988).
During this period, he appeared onstage at the Grammy awards with Stevie Wonder, Howard Jones, and Thomas Dolby, in a famous synthesizer jam (The video on Youtube can be found here.). Lesser known works from the 1980s are the live album Jazz Africa (1987) and the studio album Village Life (1984), which were recorded with Gambian kora player Foday Musa Suso. Also, in 1985 Hancock performed as a guest on the album So Red The Rose (1985) by the Duran Duran spinoff group Arcadia. He also provided introductory and closing comments for the PBS rebroadcast in the United States of the BBC educational series from the mid-1980s, Rockschool (not to be confused with the most recent Gene Simmons' Rock School series).
In 1986, Hancock performed and acted in the film 'Round Midnight. He also wrote the score/soundtrack, for which he won an Academy Award for Original Music Score. Often he would write music for TV commercials. "Maiden Voyage", in fact, started out as a cologne advertisement. At the end of the Perfect Machine tour, Hancock decided to leave Columbia Records after a 15-plus-year relationship.
As of June 2005, almost half of his Columbia recordings have been remastered. The first three US releases, Sextant (1973), Head Hunters (1973) and Thrust (1974) as well as the last four releases Future Shock (1983), Sound-System (1984), the soundtrack to Round Midnight (1986) and Perfect Machine (1988). Everything released in America from Man-Child (1975) to Quartet (1982) has yet to be remastered. Some albums, made and initially released in the US, were remastered between 1999 and 2001 in other countries such as Monster (1980) and Magic Windows (1981). Hancock also re-released some of his Japan-only releases in the West, such as The Piano (1979).
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