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Michael Franks: Rendezvous in Rio

Michael Franks is a refreshing tonic in a loud, crazy time, which is why his fans are some of the most devoted in the world. The veteran vocalist’s CDs come less frequently now, but each one can be counted on for the same warmth and passion that come from a consummate musician who paints his music with shades of pop, jazz and earthy soul. Franks’ childlike but not childish voice is a soothing balm that values elocution, control and style.

A few years ago, Franks offered a Christmas classic called Watching the Snow that perfectly captured the contrasting seasonal chill and holiday warmth. He goes in the other direction with his new CD while penning nine new songs that, as usual, go for the clever phrase and witty rejoinder that lift his tunes above pleasingly pleasant pop. Here, Franks-who has homes in upstate New York and Florida-sets the tone with “Under the Sun:” “Snow in my shoes/Mid-winter blues/Have got me down/Just point me south…let’s go now.” Equally sunny are the title track and “Samba do Soho,” a rare cover and a Brazilian classic by Paolo Jobim and Ronaldo Bastos.

Not all is tropical, as Franks adds to his wordplay canon with “Scatsville” and offers a jazz ballad with “The Cool School” and “Hearing ‘Take Five,'” a new twist of the most famous 5/4 time-signature tune in jazz, buffeted by Jimmy Haslip’s bass and a Vinnie Colaiuta drum solo.

Originally Published