There’s an easy test to apply to a compact disc to determine its worth: can you listen to it from front to back without skipping a track. Ask yourself, "can I really listen to this CD all the way through?"
On his latest release, Yell Fire!, Michael Franti and Spearhead have made a record that passes that test.
From front to back, Yell Fire! is a strong disc. Inspired by Franti’s travels in the Middle East, Spearhead’s latest release conveys its message from the first verse of the first song, "Time To Go Home":
"Those who start wars never fight them, and those who fight wars never like them."
Franti has never been shy about expressing his political views, and they are part of what makes this album great – it’s got a message. In a world where most of the music that hits the airwaves today is trite and meaningless, Yell Fire! is a diamond in the rough. Over the course of the album, Franti explicitly expresses his views on war, the Middle East, and religion, and his honesty and delivery combine to make a gem of a CD.
This CD succeeds because while from song to song, the style changes like a chameleon, the album doesn’t seem disjointed. There are party songs like the title track, "East to the West," and "Everybody Ona Move." There are soft songs like "Sweet Little Lies" and "One Step Closer to You," the latter complete with strong backing vocals (seriously) from Pink. There’s Spearhead’s signature mash-up of reggae and hip-hop. There’s a little bit of rock. While on the surface, it sounds like this disc doesn’t quite have an identity because of the constant shift in musical style, but the consistent message and strong lyrics keeps the listener engaged. Franti and company cover all musical bases, and do so successfully.
The title track, Yell Fire!, has been a staple of Franti’s live show for quite some time, and it translates well to the studio. In fact, most of the songs on the album work out both on CD and on stage.
The disc closes with a stripped down song, "Is Love Enough." With just Franti (guitar/percussoin) and bassist Carl Young on keyboard, it’s a perfect finish to a near-perfect disc.