Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Sony)

 |   |  1 min read

Herbie Hancock: Tomorrow Never Knows
Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Sony)

Regardless of what you think of John Lennon's song Imagine -- and opinion ranges from drippy sentimentality to inspirational -- most would agree the song succeeds with many people for its understated delivery. Lennon sang it without aching obviously through whatever emotion he might be bringing to it, which allowed the listener to fill in the gap.

Wish we could say the same for the many thousands who have covered it: most find deep emotion in every syllable and make sure you know they really, really feel this message.

Most versions of Imagine are unlistenable -- and when you get soul singers taking it on things are often just absurd as they try to prove just how sensitive they are.

Regrettably this new celebrity-collision album helmed by Herbie Hancock starts off in just that way as Pink and Seal go out of their way to quiver through the lyrics. Things improve when Konono No 1 bring some funky (but smoothly produced) drive to it with Oumou Sangare. Jeff Beck gets a brief solo and India.Arie brings soul-jazz quiver . . .

Next up is Pink and John Legend on Peter Gabriel's Don't Give Up (with Beck's bassist Tal Wickenfeld and the session wizards) and later Dave Matthews offers a servicable version of Tomorrow Never Knows.

James Morrison plays a straight bat to Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come (nice), Juanes keeps the emotions in check with La Tierra, and The Chieftains and kora player Toumani Diabate get in behind the whispered/urgent vocals of Lisa Hannigan on The Times They Are a Changin'.

Other guests (often on the same track) include Tinariwen, Los Lobos, Anoushka Shankar, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, Ceu . . .  

You sense that most people on hand knew they were involved in An Important Album -- one with a social conscience -- and have taken the material and themselves very seriously indeed. Shame.

Of course the musicianship is superb and Hancock really is on top form here -- so much so you wish you could get a version without the vocals to more fully appreciate his playing as he remakes the familiar melodies.

Mostly this album reminds me of Quincy Jones' equally guest-heavy Back on the Block, and I don't think I ever listened to that more than once.

But my pick is that come Grammy time Imagine will be up for song of the year. This is that kind of album.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

Billy Hart Quartet: One is the Other (ECM/Ode)

Billy Hart Quartet: One is the Other (ECM/Ode)

Although drummer Bily Hart seems to have been around since jazz was a young man -- he's now 73 and played in soul bands behind Otis Redding and others before seriously embarking on the jazz route... > Read more

RAY BROWN, SUPERBASS (1926-2002): A talent beyond words

RAY BROWN, SUPERBASS (1926-2002): A talent beyond words

Ray Brown great practical joker. Once, in Japan, Brown --- bassist in pianist Oscar Peterson’s famous drummerless group, the most highly paid trio in the jazz world in the 1950s -- went to... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Vorn Colgan of Vorn

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Vorn Colgan of Vorn

In a country where pop music is often slightly bent and off on a tangent, and "alternative" act are frequently in the mainstream of public attention, New Zealand's Vorn still manages to... > Read more

OVER THERE a television series by STEVEN BOCHCO AND CHRIS GEROLMO (DVD, 2005)

OVER THERE a television series by STEVEN BOCHCO AND CHRIS GEROLMO (DVD, 2005)

A couple of years ago, if you had driven an hour north of downtown LA you would have been in a war zone, a slice of hellish Iraq right there in the arid desert of California. An American unit... > Read more