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Soul Express CD Review

Michael Franks: Time Together


Time Together

US Shanachie CD, 2011

Now That The Summer’s Here – One Day In St. Tropez – Summer In New York – Mice – Charlie Chan In Egypt – I’D Rather Be Happy Than Right – Time Together – Samba Blue – My Heart Said Wow – If I Could Make September Stay – Feathers From An Angel’s Wing

“Time Together” has to be one of the most consistent and strong albums he has recorded in his near 40-year career. Spellbinding, whimsical, summery, sultry and even socially conscious, Michael Franks pulls out all the stops in this own unique, inimitable fashion. I have never hidden the fact that I love Michael Franks, but not always do I link in to his music. I have found some sets hit and miss or patchy, but not so on this CD. Franks is clever. Certainly intelligent in how he writes and marries his smooth vocals to the Jobim-based melodies. Franks tells insightful stories, poetic and personal and sometimes tongue-in-cheek. Producer Chuck Loeb has worked symbiotically with Michael on this CD, and is supremely reverential to the Great Man’s style. Loeb himself is a monster talent, although I would argue too much in the smooth jazz niche for his own good, and is able to craft eleven magical tunes that cannot be taken to task. Producers Gil Goldstein, Charles Blenzig and Mark Egan also work amazingly on their respective tracks.

Sadly for this miserable, damp and rain-weary scribe an album of samba based tunes effusing the merits of summer is not happy listening but as we know full well, when the UK does benefit from some sunshine next year or some time thereafter this album will still be relevant! Not sure about eating your tea with flip-flops on, Michael...come and stay with me and my missus and we’ll buy you some waders. Enough of my whinging and on with the music! “Now That Summer Is Here” is simply radiant of summer’s heat...lazy in all but execution and delivery the craftsmanship in musicianship, production and vocal is superb. The autobiographical “Summer In St. Tropez” is equally alluring and is surpassed by the sheer brilliance and heat of “Summer In New York”. I hit play over and over again...the prelude to this song is spine-tingling and the synths raise the hair on my arms...the sea gulls come in and then we have a squeezebox styled backbeat with the most coolest trumpet courtesy of Till Bronner...lyrically we hear about the delights of this great city seen through the eyes of someone who is obviously intelligent and cultured. It’s not all drugs, tha hood and homeboys that today’s R&B thugs would like to purvey. There is also room for the intelligent.

Dreamy vibes courtesy of Mike Mainieri on his vibraphone greet us on the whimsical yet insightful “Mice”. Oh I love how Michael Franks thinks and feels. You can tell that Franks sees and thinks a lot and draws his lyrics from the most interesting places. God, I love this! Franks lays down a very socially conscious groove on “Charlie Chan In New York”. This muse on today’s way of life, sending young men out to fight...the internet and so on...not by any means a rant but very much a man who feels very much like I do...but incredibly more erudite than oneself and superiorly erudite and more insightful. The words of wisdom ring out and make me smile with the gorgeously summery “I’d Rather Be Happy Than Right”...Insisting on the last word, he muses, is so overrated. Hear hear! Sax fans rejoice with the beautiful “Samba Blue”...again talking about France...wonder how much of this is the soundtrack to Michael’s life. If it is it’s been a very well-traveled and romantic one. Good on you!

“If I Could Make September Stay” is so beautiful...brings tears to my eyes. Summer is in retreat kingdom’s end...why can’t I make time suspend...the humming bird would hover by me...and never fly away...if only I could make September stay. So melancholic a tune and Romero Lubambo’s guitar is purely emotional. I could easily reprint all the lyrics here...simple to say they are beautiful. The final effort is also beautifully haunting...”Feathers From An Angel’s Wing” cannot be faulted and close this CD down with serious class. An essential album for lovers of quality music. ....

Barry Towler

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