The Sound Of Sunshine - Michael Franti & Spearhead

Boo Boo Wax / Capitol

You can’t spend too much time in the shadow of life’s darkness. Eventually it will consume you. Michael Franti is a big man with a big heart. Through his musical career he has spoken out against all manner of human rights violations, the horrors of war and the rape of the earth. So, it’s no wonder the latest album with his band, Spearhead, The Sound Of Sunshine finds him back in Jamaica, the spiritual heart of his music, for a little psychological R&R. To be truthful, despite the idyllic island moment on the cover, the disc was recorded, as many artists find themselves doing these days, thanks to the portability of today’s recording technology, on the road; in hotel rooms, tour buses, dressing rooms, you name it. But, the mind-set is definitely Caribbean. Listeners will find that infectious tropical bounce and Franti’s unmistakable baritone intact, but will be hard-pressed to find a cause attached to his flow this time ‘round. From the acoustic lightness of the title track (and opener) through its reprise at the close, there’s a free smile inside every track. Even potty-mouthed and volatile dancehaller, Lady Saw can only respond to Franti’s niceties in their duet, Shake It, with a laugh and, “I like that.” There’s a message in there somewhere about encouraging women to maintain a healthy self-image, but it’s hardly the impassioned anti-war cry of Yell Fire’s ‘I Know I’m Not Alone’. Hey, Hey, Hey is one new song that underpins the tropical breeziness of The Sound Of Sunshine with a sobering lyric, a juxtaposition that works especially well for Franti and crew. None of today’s conscious song writers needs or deserves a moment of heart-warming lightness more than Michael Franti and I wish this poor world of our no more woes than it has already, but I’m looking forward to the next time Spearhead takes up the cause of the down-trodden, does battle with injustice and adds the angst into mix that gives this great band its edge.