The Prisoner (album)

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The Prisoner
The Prisoner (album).jpg
Studio album by Herbie Hancock
Released 1969
Recorded April 18, 21 & 23, 1969
Studio Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs
Genre Jazz
Length 41:11 original LP
Label Blue Note
BST 84321
Producer Duke Pearson
Herbie Hancock chronology
Speak Like a Child
The Prisoner
Fat Albert Rotunda
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide 4/5 stars[2]

The Prisoner is the seventh album by Herbie Hancock, his final on the Blue Note label, released and recorded in 1969. His next record would be on Warner Bros. Records. Hancock confessed in 1969 that he had been able to get closer to his real self with this album than on any other previous ones.[3] He praised flute player Hubert Laws and his merits on the album, also pointing out that Laws was one of the finest flute players in classical or jazz music.


Just like his ambitious Speak Like a Child, The Prisoner stands as an example of "social statement written in music". The title track wants to express "how black people have been imprisoned for a long time." The piece was first heard live in 1968, during a performance at University of California Jazz Festival. "Firewater" should represent the social duality of the oppressor and the oppressed: the fire symbolises the heat in violence and (abuse of) power, whilst the feeling of water recalls Martin Luther King. "He Who Lives in Fear" too is connected to King's life, since he "had to live in an atmosphere charged with intimidation". A rough arrangement of said piece was initially used as a jingle for a Silva Thins cigarette TV commercial. Ultimately, "Promise of the Sun" is a tune that symbolises "how the sun promises life and freedom to all living things, and yet blacks are not yet free."[3]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Herbie Hancock, except where noted.

  1. "I Have a Dream" – 10:58
  2. "The Prisoner" – 7:57
  3. "Firewater" (Buster Williams) – 7:33
  4. "He Who Lives in Fear" – 6:51
  5. "Promise of the Sun" – 7:52

Bonus tracks on CD reissue

  1. "The Prisoner" [Alternate Take] – 5:47
  2. "Firewater" [Alternate Take] – 8:38

Recorded on April 18 (#2, 4, 6), April 21 (#1) and April 23 (#3, 5, 7), 1969.



  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2011). "The Prisoner - Herbie Hancock | AllMusic". Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Swenson, J. (Editor) (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 93. ISBN 0-394-72643-X. 
  3. ^ a b Original liner notes by Herb Wong