Michael Franti has a long musical history starting in the 80’s. A few years rolled by, 1993 came along, and he joined up with other musicians, forming a band called Spearhead. Since then, for the past twenty years, they’ve been pumping out album after album, song after song, constantly releasing more and more music into the world. With the band’s latest album, All People, Michael Franti sought to expand a bit, and really create one of his greatest works yet.
Initially, Michael Franti and Spearhead comes off as an incredibly enthusiastic and upbeat band. The whistling start of, “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like),” with it’s pulsating drum beat and cheerful singing resonate, through your body and make you want to get up out of your seat and dance. The fourth track, “Long Ride Home,” is calmer and atmospheric. It might be more mellow, but it still sends good vibes, and it seems as though that’s what the album is all about.
On the other hand, All People constantly makes a point to send out a cheerful yet matured message. In the sixth track, “Earth From Outer Space,” Franti’s reggae influence really shines through and we’re left with a perky little tune about the world’s madness versus humanity’s own unified being.
Everything isn’t perfect in the musical world of All People though. Based on a little research, Michael Franti has some sort of humanitarian, uber-ethical mission that he likes to pack into his music –it shows. In the albums closing track, “Say Goodbye,” he makes a point to exclaim, “Tell me why, tell me why what is the reason good people have to die?” And that’s not all, time from time, Franti’s thoughts and feelings really do come bursting through his music.
Unfortunately, All People isn’t perfect either. In a way, the album almost sounds like everything else today. Certain sounds, are just becoming incredibly popular. In particular, in the opening track entitled, “All People,” there’s a seemingly random electronic buildup –it’s just poor execution and the random synth sound seems out of place. Now, thankfully, it doesn’t ruin the song completely, in fact, it only happens twice –but why?Understand, this isn’t some sort of snobby, “be original,” rant, but All People just doesn’t do anything to stand out, and that’s part of it’s downfall.
It might seem odd to say, but sometimes All People just seems to drag on. Truthfully, the album isn’t that big; a more than gracious forty minutes of fairly decent music. Yet each song has a, “Well I guess this is it,” feel to it. A sort of climatic burst that doesn’t seem to end. Let me give a metaphor: in most stories, there’s a beginning, things get intense, we hit a climax and a solution, and it all falls to a pleasant end. All People lets the action rise from the start and doesn’t let up. Maybe that doesn’t sound so problematic, but it’s exhausting. When the album could call it an early end and wrap itself up comfortably, it just keeps going.
Admittedly, I’ve never listened Michael Franti’s work prior to this album and admittedly, this one just not might be for me. All People isn’t necessarily bad album, I just found it difficult to enjoy after a while. And while I may not have fallen in love with this one, there’s several songs that will stick with me. If you’re a fan of Franti or don’t mind adding a little dance-music influence to your reggae, give the album a chance.
MP3: Michael Franti and Spearhead “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)”