Taken from HYBRIDMAGAZINE (Aug, 2004)
Michael Franti - Songs From The Front Porch album review
by Embo Blake
Songs From The Front Porch
Boo Boo Wax Records
Honestly, I was very surprised by this record. Why would one of the most respected and capable rap artists EVER decide to put out an acoustic record? I love Michael Franti in Spearhead. They are one of the few rap (what the kids now refer to as hip-hop- but don't get me started on that) bands that I can truly appreciate. Franti begun his career with the ultra-digable Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, released one record and then disappeared for two years and resurfaced with Spearhead, which was twice the band the Disposable Heroes were. He was on top of his game in a genre that typically embraces more ego than any other. So, why this record? Why some acoustic songs?
Well, I finally talked myself into putting in the record. And I listened. And I listened again. And then I listened again, and found that the cd took up residence in my player for more than a week. Okay. I get it now. Building on the foundation he started with 2003's Everyone Deserves Music, Franti is just continuing to strip his music down, away from the beats, and more towards the basic song. If I had only one line to tell you about this record, this would be it: Michael Franti is the fast becoming the Ben Harper that Ben Harper once was, but has moved so far away from. These are songs with heart and soul and passion. Songs that stand on their own, equally as good whether distanced from the reputation of the performer or not.
The record opens with a signature Franti upbeat message of hope in "Yes I Will". Bright acoustic guitars and groovy hand-clapped rhythms steer the song in its joyful direction. The album takes a momentary turn with "Firefly", which has a definite Santana vibe, backed up with some cool percussion and some intriguing keyboard grooves - very loungy. But the record slips right back to it's more acoustic feel with the soft guitars and airy flutes of "Love'll Set Me Free" and the hope filled message of "Love Invincible". Anyone who feels that Franti has dulled the edge of his music has only to listen carefully to the lyrics hidden in songs like "Stay Human". "Starvation is a creation of the devil/ a rebel/ I'm bringin' food to the people like a widow/ bringin' flowers to a grave in the middle/ of the city isolationis a riddle."
As a country boy, I grew up with the family gathered around on the front porch of the old house on Sunday afternoons my grandfather playing his banjo, my mother with her guitar, and all of us singing. I know what the front porch is supposed to feel like. This would be a front porch session I would be more than happy to be a part of.
1. Yes I Will
2. Closer To The Sky
4. Love'll Set Me Free
5. Love Invincible
6. Anybody Seen My Mind
8. Stay Human
9. Oh My God
10. Ganja Babe