“Time Together” (Shanachie) confirms Michael Franks’s standing among artists like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and even Steely Dan, all pop acts with a deep appreciation for jazz, though his fealty to the genre drifts toward the smooth and mellow. Early on he sings,
With my chores I only flirt Hung in my hammock reading Kurt Struggling to remain inert Now that the summer's here.
Combine that vibe with his kinship to players like guitarist Chuck Loeb (a co-producer along with pianist Gil Goldstein), trumpeter Till Bronner, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassists Mark Egan, Will Lee and Jay Anderson, and drummer Billy Kilson—well, that’s an inspiring team who impart their gifts by surrounding Franks with lush rhythms, Brazilian-style, as well as great deal of silky romanticism.
|Franks with his beloved dachshund,|
Flora, who passed during the album's
production and for whom the CD
and title track is named.
After 20+ releases, this superb outing leaves no doubt that Franks remains a singular tunesmith and at the top of his game. He’s nothing if not a wide-eyed optimist; the synthetic percussion of “Summer In New York” makes for an infectious chill-out track, thanks mostly to Chuck Loeb’s studio wizardry, classy guitar and Bronner’s glossy horn solo. As one would expect, Franks’s music is soft-shouldered, its edges smoothed out for easy listening and maximum enjoyment. He name-checks Ahmad Jamal and “Poinciana,” Astrud Gilberto and, of course, Jobim. That doesn’t mean his intent is diluted. Indeed, like his best work (and that includes “When I Give My Love To You” and “Popsicle Toes”) the songs on this album tap international pleasure spots with ringing authenticity, like the nostalgic “One Day In St. Tropez,” featuring guitarist Romero Lubambo.
There’s something reassuring about the gentle lilt of his voice and his unapologetically sunny lyrics. But equally pleasurable about Michael Franks is his devotion to good sound and to the musicians that make his compositions bloom. When Franks does step out of character, it’s like hearing a passing comment from a friend during a reflective beachfront stroll. And though “Charlie Chan In Egypt” directly questions our country’s foreign policy and wars of choice (he sings of “these terrible misadventures we are involved in”) it’s as sobering as Franks gets, but what you’ll inevitably take away from this lovely album is his sparkling lyricism and point-of-view that all’s basically right in the world. (11 tracks; 56:59 minutes) www.michaelfranks.com/lyrics.html
Labels: Billy Kilson, Chuck Loeb, Eric Marienthal, Gil Goldstein, Jay Anderson, Mark Egan, Michael Franks, Romero Lubambo, Shanachie Records, Till Bronner, Will Lee