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Michael Franks: Barefoot On the Beach

Always a sly wordsmith with the deceptively straightforward vocal delivery, Michael Franks spins his tales in a sweetly tropical mode for Barefoot on the Beach, an album filled with hooky melodies that wander gently through a mind in vacation mode. An interesting tandem of producers Chuck Loeb and bassist Jimmy Haslip help craft such charming tales as the magical, airy jazz piece “The Fountain of Youth,” and Kermit the Frog sincere brassy duet “Now Love Has No End,” which smartly pits Franks’ deadpan vocals against Valerie Simpson’s sweet ’70s soul. Part of the allure of Franks’ work has always been his unique lyric point of view, and Barefoot is no exception-as phrases like “the game of hearts was long false starts/until you taught me how” (“Now Love Has No End”) and “love is never obbligato” (“When You Smiled at Me”). His clever lyrics are combined here with deft atmospheric touches like Randy Brecker’s haunted trumpet on the bittersweet waltz, “A Walk in the Rain,” and the sharp-edged vocal chorus driving “Mr. Smooth,” a sarcastic deconstruction of an egomaniacal poseur.

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