Herbie Hancock – Thrust

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  • Thrust makes its Hot Stamper debut here with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This vintage pressing is well balanced, big and lively, with wonderful clarity in the mids and highs, as well the bass foundation critical to Hancock’s funky jazz
  • 4 stars: “… an earthy, funky, yet often harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated tour de force… Hancock continues to reach into the rapidly changing high-tech world for new sounds, most notably the metallic sheen of the then-new ARP string synthesizer which was already becoming a staple item on pop and jazz-rock records… This supertight jazz-funk quintet album still sounds invigorating a quarter of a century later. “

This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Hancock and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Thrust have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

What We’re Listening For on Thrust

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hohner D6 clavinet, ARP Odyssey, ARP Soloist, ARP 2600, ARP String Ensemble Bennie Maupin – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, saxello, bass clarinet, alto flute Paul Jackson – electric bass Mike Clark – drums Bill Summers – percussion

Best Practices

Recently we did a shootout for a record we knew little about, this one, using a group of pressings we had earlier auditioned and which had impressed us with their sound quality.

First we cleaned them as carefully as we could. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Using a few specific passages of music, once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, it will soon become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process could not be more simple. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Palm Grease
Actual Proof

Side Two

Butterfly
Spank-A-Lee

AMG 4 Star Review

The follow-up to the breakthrough Headhunters album was virtually as good as its wildly successful predecessor: an earthy, funky, yet often harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated tour de force.

There is only one change in the Headhunters lineup — swapping drummer Harvey Mason for Mike Clark — and the switch results in grooves that are even more complex. Hancock continues to reach into the rapidly changing high-tech world for new sounds, most notably the metallic sheen of the then-new ARP string synthesizer which was already becoming a staple item on pop and jazz-rock records.

Again, there are only four long tracks, three of which (“Palm Grease,” “Actual Proof,” “Spank-A-Lee”) concentrate on the funk, with plenty of Hancock’s wah-wah clavinet, synthesizer textures and effects, and electric piano ruminations that still venture beyond the outer limits of post-bop. The change-of-pace is one of Hancock’s loveliest electric pieces, “Butterfly,” a match for any tune he’s written before or since, with shimmering synth textures and Bennie Maupin soaring on soprano (Hancock would re-record it 20 years later on Dis Is Da Drum, but this is the one to hear).

This supertight jazz-funk quintet album still sounds invigorating a quarter of a century later.

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