erasing clouds

Michael Franti and Spearhead, Everyone Deserves Music

reviewed by dave heaton

With their third album Stay Human, Michael Franti & Spearhead (once just known as Spearhead) evolved their music into an absolutely riveting blend of soul, reggae and hip-hop that was joyous, melodic, and unabashedly aimed at starting a revolution based on universal compassion and justice. In comparison to that album, Everyone Deserves Music feels like a slight slip: the political rhetoric gets a little less sharp and veers closer to Sting-like, feel-good new-age-isms, and the music feels a little more routine, not quite as edgy.

Comparing the two albums is inevitable yet also unfair, however, as this is still a compelling, satisfying collection of music that unites the rebel spirit of Bob Marley with the universal-party quality of Sly & the Family Stone. Franti is one of those rare individuals who sincerely longs to change the world with music. He has a dreamer's vision of what the world should be, and is doing everything a musician can to articulate that vision in a way that gets others to re-think their assumptions about the world. Bless him for that. If his messages aren't quite as powerfully articulated as on Stay Human, there's still plenty of timely commentary on the current state of world affairs.

It's also clear that Franti's still trying to expand his songwriting skills beyond one particular genre or style. "Love, Why Did You Go Away" starts as an "Imagine"-inspired ballad before shifting gear into a rock-gospel rave-up, while "Love Invincible" matches a funky disco beat with Franti vocals that smoothly switch from sensitive and low-key to truly impassioned. There's also some gentle, pretty acoustic ballads that nod towards folk music, like the closing "Crazy, Crazy, Crazy," a delicate yet strident call for peace.

Everyone Deserves Music is one more attempt by Franti to grow his music in new directions while crying out for a better society. It might not be his best work, yet it's still worth paying attention to, for the music and the messages.


Issue 15, September 2003

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