Released in the U.K. in 2010, this volume of Original Album Series features the second through sixth studio albums from Michael Franks: The Art of Tea (1976), Sleeping Gypsy (1977), Burchfield Nines (1978), Tiger in the Rain (1979), and One Bad Habit…
Michael released "Dragonfly Summer after a three year hiatus. What a wonderful return. The opener "Coming To Life" is an upbeat tune where Michael seems like he's singing about the start of this album itself. All of the songs are winners, I sometimes wonder what the outtakes are like, given the overall quality of the songs here. "Soul Mate" not only turned me on to Jeff Lorber, but also introduced me to Eric Benet, he's singing the harmony vocal. Not only is Michael talented, but the people he surrounds himself with, wow! The title track is fun, "Monk's New Tune" is about as late night jazz as Michael gets. "I Love Lucy" is that "I Love Lucy," the only cover Michael has recorded, save for a couple Christmas songs. The song is transformed from a Cuban lounge style to a romantic Brazilian influenced love song, the orchestration is glorious. "Practice Makes Perfect" is fun, "String Of Pearls" is a beautiful song, moving at a nice tempo featuring accoustic guitar and a woodwind solo.
It remains extraordinary that Michael Franks has not broken through from his small but devoted following to a wider audience, for he is without any doubt the most complete and perceptive songwriter currently active. His songs speak of love lost, found, abandoned, imagined, destroyed, recaptured, and all shades of nuance in between. Anyone who has experienced any emotional joy or upset (ie. anyone over the age of thirty) will find the memory of the experience captured in the deliciously subtle words and music of Michael Franks. "Heart Like an Open Book", has the male narrator singing, with a naive joy that is almost painful for the cynical listener to observe, of how he and his new lover reveal themselves, one to the other, with their hearts "like an open book". Cultural and literary references feature in many of the songs (eg. "I flashed my Rhett Butler look"), and are a joy to those with whom they strike a chord, but are not obstructive to the enjoyment of the music by those oblivious to such references. This album is perhaps not as good as the earlier, utterly marvellous "Abandoned Garden", but as that was one of the finest albums of all time, this is not in any way a criticism.
Jazz singer/songwriter Michael Franks is an artist most jazz fans feel strongly about one way or another. His unique, romantic poet-cum-laid-back hipster approach to jazz signing is breezy, light, and languid. It's also uniquely his own, though deeply influenced by Brazilian jazz, bossa, and samba. Time Together, his first recording of new material in five years – and his debut for Shanachie – is unlikely to change anyone's opinion of him, but that doesn't mean this is a rote recording. Time Together is an airy, groove-ridden summer travelog that ranges from St. Tropez and New York to Paris, France, and Egypt; it journeys through the nostalgic past and finds space in the present moment, with cleverly notated, languorous, ironic observations about life. Franks split the production and arranging duties between Charles Blenzig, Gil Goldstein, Chuck Loeb, Scott Petito, and Mark Egan. The rest of the international cast on this polished 11-song set includes old friends and new faces David Spinozza, Mike Mainieri, David Mann, Eric Marienthal, Till Brönner, Alex Spiagin, Jerry Marotta, Billy Kilson, Romero Lubambo, and backing vocalist Veronica Nunn.
No chance Franks is going to change the formula now after all these years, but what a great formula it is. Michael Franks delivers another superb collection of idiosyncratic pop songs as only he can - this time out with a bit of a Brazilian flavored twist. Features Chuck Loeb (guitar, keyboards, programming), David Sancious (piano, keyboards), Jeff Lorber (keyboards, programming), Michael White (drums) and Eric Marienthal.
Michael Franks with Crossfire Live is a live jazz vocal album by Michael Franks featuring the Australian band Crossfire. It was recorded over a series of three concerts in Australia and New Zealand in September 1980; at the Capitol Theater in Sydney on the 25th, St James Tavern in Sydney on the 27th and The Town Hall in Auckland on the 29th.