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Michael Franks — The Music in My Head

June 27, 2018

As clever and witty as ever, LaJolla, California’s own cherished wordsmith – Michael Franks — is back for his first album in seven years (and 18th album overall), entitled The Music in My Head. And it’s great to have him back.

Franks always has been gifted immensely with a command of the English language. Though he never studied music in college, he developed his incomparable penchant for words while a student at UCLA during the late ‘60s. He earned a degree in comparative literature as an undergrad before also earning a Master’s Degree. He was a teaching assistant in the Ph.D program in American Literature at the University of Montreal before teaching part-time at UCLA.

In other words, it’s a safe bet to say that Franks knows more than enough about the effective art of words—and not just about the Art of Tea, as his 1976 album was entitled.

Franks’ artful implementation of words (he wrote all 10 of the tunes) is on full scroll here.

His nod to Romantic poet William Wordsworth is incorporated into Franks’ bossa nova groove-laced “To Spend the Day With You.” His opening line utilizes the introduction to the classic poet’s “The World Is Too Much With Us” with: “Whoever said this world is too much with us, Late and soon was right/His words are worth repeating/Anytime a cloud obscures the light/When blue invades my palette/That’s the moment I retreat with you/If we’re considered recluses, so what!(sic)/cause(sic) I don’t care, do you?”

The opening track, the laid-back and gorgeous “As Long as We’re Both Together,” is classic Franks—over-easy grooves that conjure up lounging around in a hammock while sipping your favorite beverage and snuggling up with that special someone with whom to share those stolen, meditative moments. It’s a captivating tune that is even more special as it was produced and arranged by the late, talented and renowned guitarist Chuck Loeb, a dear friend of Franks and his family. In addition to guitar, Loeb plays keyboards on the track. They’re joined on this tune’s mystical, musical journey by saxophonist Eric Marienthal; former Yellowjackets electric bassist Jimmy Haslip; percussionist Manuel Quintana; and background vocalists Veronica Nunn and Leslie Ritter.

Pianist/keyboardist Rachel Z and Yellowjackets saxophonist Bob Mintzer add their special, polished touches to the swaying groove of “The Idea of a Tree.” An added treat is Franks scatting on this number.

Pianist/arranger extraordinaire Gil Goldstein is featured on two tracks: the introspective “Bluebird Blue” and samba-laced “Suddenly Sci-Fi.” The popular Brazilian guitarist, Romero Lubambo, a Franks favorite, plays a brilliant, bluesy guitar solo here as well.

It’s difficult to believe that Franks hasn’t done a solo album in seven years. The entire album flows seamlessly. As usual, the cerebral vocalist/lyricist with the tongue-in-cheek humor doesn’t disappoint. It’s been worth the wait! – Liz Goodwin