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08/27/11

Michael Franks
Time Together
Mack Avenue Records

In the five years since his last studio album, trippy troubadour Michael Franks has gained a certain alluring vocal huskiness but lost none of his hazy sangfroid. Much of Time Together unfolds like a global summer travelogue and, fittingly, features a top-drawer assortment of international guests, including German trumpeter Till Brönner, Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo and Russian trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. The world tour begins in Franks’ own backyard with “Now That Summer’s Here,” a lilting, hammocks-and-flip-flops ode to relaxation. The autobiographical “One Day in St. Tropez” recalls a 1963 hitchhiking-through-Europe incident involving a Jaguar XKE and Brigitte Bardot, and “Samba Blue” remembers a Parisian tryst with his wife, Claudia.

Franks’ penchant for delicately crafted homilies remains fervent as well. “Mice” looks to the rodent population for lessons in joy and fulfillment, and the sunnily philosophical “I’d Rather Be Happy Than Right” suggests a sort of let-bygones-be-bygones slice of bonhomie. The title track, a cozy portrait of familial contentment, pays tribute to Franks’ beloved dachshund (who passed away during the album’s recording), while “My Heart Said Wow,” a paean to the restorative power of newfound love, provides a fine showcase for Franks’ longstanding touring companion, vocalist Veronica Nunn. And, for the first time in a long while, Franks enters the arena of sociopolitical commentary with “Charlie Chan in Egypt,” a silk-wrapped treatise on U.S. military involvement on foreign shores and its devastating aftereffects.

Originally published in September 2011
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