January 21, 2019 Michael Franti & Spearhead – (Album Review)
Life is short. That is why Michael Franti has always brought a simple message to his art – keeping it real. Known for having participated in many musical projects through the years, most recently, his creativity flowed in two parts with his current independent project, Michael Franti & Spearhead. Franti shares his thoughts, sights, and sounds that color his journey as a member of the human race in the self-directed Stay Human, the award-winning Documentary distributed through CINEDIGM. Furthermore, his latest album, Stay Human Vol. II, is the music inspired by the film and set for simultaneous release on January 25, 2019 through Thirty Tigers.
Vulnerable and authentic, the resonance of music from a man on fire can be a frightening thing. Throughout his celebrated career, Franti, whose faith in his fellow man, in spite of the flaws, always flows with hope and love. That in mind, has the song remained the same with the worldwide crazy seemingly escalating?
The activist with a background in Spoken Word trips into the fourteen track sampling that is Stay Human Vol. II with Funk genius on “Little Things.” A harsh look at reality set to tapping rhythms, community reminds humanity that we are all connected, and Franti gives a master class in lyricism from the opening note.
Moving right along, you will hear visual beauty on “Just To Say I Love You.” As mentioned, this album is an auditory touchstone for the images in the Documentary Stay Human, and longtime Soul Rocker fans will understand. A bright and hopeful tone shifts gears, but the theme remains the same with “Flower In The Gun” in all its haunting beauty. Featuring Victoria Canal, the music communicates a message perfectly, and the production choices made in this cut frame an experience that is universally relatable. Tossing aside gender, race, faith, or ethnicity it is a ballad that is simple and sweet.
A featured performance from HIRIE, “Only Thing Missing Was You 2” takes a break from the heavier message of the record in a classic Franti & Spearhead style, strolling along with a Reggae strut. Sliding into “Stay Human 2,” a plaintive vocal is surrounded by celebratory horns. Keeping the party going, “Summertime Won’t Last Long” is a bit of sequencing genius.
Changing the mood a little, “This World Is So F*cked Up (But I Ain’t Ever Giving Up On It)” carries a powerful message of hope, faith, and love. Of all the songs that encapsulate the message of the Documentary Stay Human, this is it. Lilting melody is blended with simple instrumentation enhancing Franti’s buttery smooth vocal delivery. Enhanced by back up vocals, this is simple island beauty shining a light on some harsh truths and the positive people who have impacted Franti, many of whom he mentions in the film.
Life and its challenges have taught Michael Franti some things, first and foremost the power of love. Celebrating different meanings of the word, “You’re Number One” and “Enjoy Every Second” featuring AGodess are party love. Each embrace of Funk fun that fans have come to expect are delivered here! “Extraordinary” caps off the blatant party songs, but is a party song anything more than another way of saying enjoy life?
A window into the soul of a humanitarian and activist, “Nobody Cries Alone” is an homage to the depth of the caring one person can have for others. Creating a vibe that is a warm embrace, this cut tells the story of Michael Franti the regular guy. The commitment to others gives a real resonance to the revivalist feel of “When The Sun Begins To Shine” as it marches toward the end of the album. The party is almost over, taking to focus back on the positive with production choices that feel like a community gathering which is fantastic!
Heading out, the inclusive anthem “Show Me Your Peace Sign” shows Franti is a craftsman at sharing raw and real feelings. With simple lyrics that call out for a metaphorical linking of hands throughout humanity, the message is clear that there is no race, we are all human. Lastly, stripped down, the album finale, “Take Me Alive,” is a man with his words and an acoustic guitar. Authentic with no pretense, it feels like a stream of consciousness set to music.
Is it a stroke of genius that Franti has sat down with his listeners and sang intimately, closing out this opus? Absolutely! Live and love out loud, Michael Franti & Spearhead invite the rest of the world to ‘stay human.’ Making music that is socially relevant art is not always a successful endeavor, but Michael Franti continues to do so. That is why Cryptic Rock give Stay Human Vol. II 5 out of 5 stars.