Michael Franks | Time Together

Michael Franks
“Time Together”

A Record Reflection by A. Scott Galloway

For his 18th album and first in five years, ever-mellow singer/songwriter Michael Franks delivers the perfect soundtrack to summer. Longtime fans will recognize the 11-song CD as largely comfy and familiar territory with a top shelf sampling of styles.

Thematically, Time Together is part travelogue and part autobiography with a taste of socio-political observation. “Summer in New York” is a musical travel brochure, setting up a hip east coast swing itinerary to the modern pulse of a lounge club mix tape while “Samba Blue” is a sexy sax and guitar-kissed reminiscence of a romantic getaway in Paris. Similarly “I’d Rather Be Happy Than Right” is sage advice set to a soundtrack like Wes Montgomery meets Tom Jobim while “My Heart Said Wow” is a short but sweet shing-a-ling swing lovers treat. The dreamy meditation “If I Could Make September Stay” – with adoring bows to ornithology and a piano-shadowing-guitar intro that brings to mind early Joni Mitchell – will keep enchanted fans mooning in front of their picture windows for several rounds on repeat. And the album’s first single, “Now That the Summer’s Here,” is being promoted with a lovely video of still life photography, evocative video and paintings that you can watch below.

For those that dig the deeper side of Franks’ writing, he’s got a couple of pieces that rival his work from albums such as Burchfield Nines (1977) and Abandoned Garden (1995). The song “Charlie Chan in Egypt” marks the first time since 1987’s “The Camera Never Lies” that Franks has wrestled a live wire socio-political topic, this one sorting out his unease with America’s foreign policies and presences in other countries. Set to a brooding track of straight ahead jazz, it was inspired by author Kurt Vonnegut’s book “Man Without a Country” and features a bluesy muted trumpet solo by Alex Sipiagin (from Russia). Meanwhile, “Mice” is a delightful yet thought-provoking and uncharacteristically sympathetic look at the lives of the little critters that too often get the long end of a dreadlocked mop handle! It features Franks’ old friends Mike Mainieri on vibes and David Spinozza on guitar.

“A Day in St. Tropez” is an autobiographical recalling of a blissful semester-long break from college to backpack through Europe where he spent time on a German farm and at the chateau of British bombshell actress Brigitte Bardot. “Time Together” is a bittersweet goodbye to the dachshund that animal lovers Michael and his wife Claudia enjoyed for many years before his passing during the recording. And the album closes with the equally penetrating “Feathers From an Angel’s Wings” on which Michael shares a lil’ parting life lesson advice over a haunting track produced by fretless bassist Mark Egan.

As witty, literate and musically delectable as always yet more intimate than ever, Michael Franks’ latest offering really lets fans inside his world. The project features a wonderful international cast of musicians, including arrangers/producers Gil Goldstein, Chuck Loeb (the new guitarist in Fourplay) and Charles Blenzig (Michael’s Musical Director on the road), guitarist Romero Lubambo (from Brazil), trumpeter Till Bronner (from Germany), drummer Billy Kilson, sax man Eric Marienthal, and vocalist Veronica Nunn (who last year recorded an entire album of Michael’s songs entitled The Art of Michael Franks). File under highly recommended… and sublime.

A. Scott Galloway
June 15, 2011
The Urban Music Scene

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