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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ivan's Choice - Michael Franks 5 disk box-set

Californian singer-songwriter Michael Franks has been entertaining fans since the early-seventies, and his long career – including a fruitful 24-year association with Warner Bros. – was recently celebrated with The Dream: 1973-2011, an extensive five-disc box set created by Rhino France.

This set organises the musician’s laid back West Coast jazz-pop compositions into themes, with disc one taking in Pop & Funky Grooves, disc two Jazz & Exotic Summer, and a third disc Soft & Cool School. The fourth CD, Rarities & Unreleased tracks + Duets & Covers, is likely to appeal to collectors with (as the title suggests) a number of previously unreleased tracks and many collaborations. A final fifth disc replicates the 1980 album Michael Franks with Crossfire Live. Unlike the rest, this CD comes in mini-LP CD form (aka vinyl replica), complete with inner sleeve with photos and lyrics.

The singer’s trademark silky smooth delivery, articulate lyrics and high quality production values are evident on early hits such as Monkey See, Monkey Do and Popsicle Toes (both from 1975′s The Art Of Tea) and the sixteen-page booklet offers full credits for all the tracks recorded, which serves as a reminder that Franks worked with a very high calibre of musician throughout his career, including the likes of drummer Steve Gadd, saxophonist David Sanborn and guitarist Hugh McCraken.

The discs are themed into moodsTheming the CDs was a inspired move. It allows a good spread of eras within each disc, and of course you can pick a disc according to your mood. Soft & Cool School has become something of a favourite at SuperDeluxeEdition HQ – amongst many fine tracks, it includes the heartfelt String of Pearls (from 1993′s Dragonfly Summer) and the superb All I Need (produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and taken from from 1990′s Blue Pacific).

Because the rarities CD pulls together tracks from movies, musicals and recordings with a wide range of collaborators, it perhaps inevitably lacks the consistency of the other discs, although that will not bother Franks completists, who will revel in these selections, many of which are either new-to-CD, previously available only in Japan, or completely unreleased. This disc even presents us with a rather ill-advised collaboration with 1990s hip-hop band Me Phi Me, and songs written by Franks, but performed by others – such as a Manhattan Transfer interpretation of Popsicle Toes and Night Moves performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater.

A cool reissue from one of my faves ever... perfect for lounging and highway/travelling...

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