Taken from Glide Magazine (Oct 04, 2010)
Michael Franti & Spearhead: The Sound of Sunshine
CD Review - 3 1/2 of 5 stars
by Brian Robbins
When the title track of the new Michael Franti & Spearhead album The Sound Of Sunshine takes off, you might catch yourself thinking that our favorite soldier of peace has gotten a little formulaic. The chukka-chukka-strummed acoustic guitar and walloping backbeat combined with a gotcha-singing-along-the-first-time-through chorus can’t help but remind you of “Say Hey (I Love You)” off 2008's All Rebel Rockers.
But by the time you’re three minutes into the thing and you’re bobbing your head, shrugging your shoulders, and shaking your butt, you realize something: if this is the sound that could get the whole world dancing instead of trying to blow each other up, then go for it, Michael. Right on.
In fact, there’s a lot of The Sound Of Sunshine that sounds familiar – not in a bad way, but in an already-broken-in sneaker sort of way. You’re not going to have to work hard to take this album in, boys and girls. Just listen, sing along when you feel like it, and leave a limb or two available for time-keeping. (Speaking of time-keeping, good ol’ Sly & Robbie lend some “additional production” to “Shake It”, providing the vibe needed to support lyrics such as “I love the way you shake that little extra bit of butter.” Uh-huh.)
Several tunes are absolutely arena-rock-ready in a most U2-ish sort of way. Check out the Edge-like guitar swirls on “Headphones” and “Hey Hey Hey”. Or how about “I’ll Be Waiting”, which drove me crazy until about the third pass through when I figured out that the main riff was a distant cousin to Bono and the boys’ “Bad”.
The anger of past work like Yell Fire! is absent, but don’t mistake that for a lack of passion. From the live dub sound of “Only Thing Missing Was You” to the gentle keyboard work on “Gloria”, Franti and company are definitely playing like they mean it.
It’s cool to be serious about being happy.