This week sees the UK release of All People from Michael Franti and Spearhead, an album of feel good hymns which brings fun filled light and adventure to any day. Consisting of sixteen tracks which flirt with and incite feet through to the imagination to romp with refreshed energy and appetite against any ills clouding personal climates, the album is a mouthwatering sunspot of diverse pop flavoured enterprise. It is pop though bred from the richest essences of everything from rock to funk, ska to Hip-Hop, soul to folk with plenty more in between. It results in a release which brings a persuasive familiarity to new adventures, an encounter which ultimately shines like a beacon in the shadows of life.
All People is the tenth album from Michael Franti, a very different proposition from where the San Francisco based singer/songwriter/guitarist began. Starting his journey with post-punk band The Beatings and then acclaimed hip-hop group Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Franti has always fought and supported the ‘underdog’, something which has never lessened as his music found its course into a more varied and pop accessible destination. It is just as full and vocal on All People, songs looking at an array of issues and flaws, worldly and intimate, but all realised in anthems for summer days and sultry nights. The follow-up to the acclaimed 2010 release The Sound of Sunshine, the new album, which sees Franti collaborating with the likes of Adrian Newman, Sam Hollander, and Canadian production team The Matrix on many of the songs, may have taken its time hitting British shores after its US release last year but it is hard to imagine it not taking over the impending summer’s soundtrack over coming weeks.
The title track starts off the party with a gentle seduction initially; acoustic guitar and the instantly evocative keys of Raliegh Neal caressing ears before Franti and guest vocalist Gina René add their tender touches to the opening coaxing. Soon pulsating heavy beats from Manas Itiene join the enticement but it is when a switch is flicked and the piano slaps its keys down on the senses that the song takes off in climatic style. Drama suddenly soaks the dancefloor incitement; the throaty bass of Carl Young bringing richer textures to the excited stomp as both vocalists again court thoughts and emotions with ease. It is the first song and first anthem of the release, setting things off explosively.
Things hit a new pinnacle right away with the following Earth From Outer Space with features K’Naan. Again as the first song, its entrance is a soothing beckoning rather than anything gripping but once the song slips into its reggae bred stroll, melodies and vocals streaming warmth and aural smiles from their notes and syllables, slavery of feet and emotions is a done deal. Lyrical repetition and easy going hooks ensure as in most tracks you can join in within one chorus and a single stride of a verse, the sheer revelry dancing resourcefully with ears. The great vocal mix and seductive colour of the song leaves that feel good factor in full flow which new single I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) embraces ravenously. The guitars of Franti and Dave Shul from the first breath are lending a creative warmth and mischief to the imagination, contagion subsequently pouring from theirs and every rhythmic and vocal design. Again the catchy heart of the pop rock track is irresistible, body and soul joining its swagger and a festivity so potent that even the downright miserable will be swept up in its scintillating arms smiling broadly outside and within.
Things take a breather with next up Long Ride Home, the song a gliding evocative croon of expressive keys and moody basslines over which Franti lays his engagingly textured tones. There is still a pulse beat to the tempered balladry of the song which eggs feet and emotions in to a keen stride of movement and reflection respectively. It is constantly brewing up a passion across its offering which ends in a potent crescendo before making way for the folkish charm of Life Is Better With You, a song with a definite Simon & Garfunkel spicing, and the pungently emotive hip-hop seeded 11.59, a track inspired by the Trayvon Martin shooting. Though the three songs cannot match the fire of their predecessors, each brings an invigorating variation and impacting enthrallment to the album.
That diversity continues with the darker light of Closer To You, a track finding its origins seemingly in the post punk formative years of Franti, its opening especially reminiscent of the chilled climates of a New Order or early Cure before expanding into an electro sculpted slice of indie rock, and the brilliant Gangsta Girl. Flaming with a delicious ska/pop stomp and sultry swerve of melodic spicery, the track is infectiousness uncaged. Its feisty canter is just like The Beat in their heyday, a broadly grinning flirtation which has feet and passions swerving like a puppeteer.
Through the again uniquely shaped pleasures of emotive rocker Show Me A Sign, the richer ska seeded I Don’t Wanna Go, and the funk infested Do It For The Love, the album continues to diversely excite and thrill whilst musically it continues to hit the sweet spot in skill and invention. The trio of songs also slip below the irrepressible temptation of the songs right before them, though each leaves body and heart alight and greedy for more which the warm and breezy Let It Go featuring Ethan Tucker, and the Lennon-esque On And On feed fully with their own unique characters in the suasion of the album.
The evocative pop enchantment of Wherever You Are followed by the emotionally fuelled ballad Say Goodbye, lead the album to its enjoyable conclusion though they do lack the kick of the rest of the album. Nevertheless they do leave a lingering breath and tempting to dive back into the album once an acoustic mix of Life Is Better With You finally brings things to a fine close.
All People is an excellent proposition to inflame the day and heart, rock pop in its most potent and impressively flavoursome forms. It is fair to say that Michael Franti and Spearhead with All People has just ignited the British summer.
All People is available now!
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