Michael Franti & Spearhead: The Sound of Sunshine

Posted October 20, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Upbeat, bright reggae-pop highlights latest disc from accomplished singer-songwriter

Throughout his twenty-year musical exodus, Michael Franti has proudly established himself as an ambassador for love, unity and brotherhood. And he’s not afraid to voice his fiery protests about environmental causes and injustice. But on his new record, The Sound of Sunshine, he lays aside the worries of a key election year and the cloudy layers of economical calamity and produces an entire record complimentary to his most successful Top 20 single, 2009’s “Say Hey (I Love You).”

The Sound of Sunshine places Michael Franti and his band, Spearhead, around a sweet mix of hip-hop-mingled island music pop using joyful arrangements, instant melodic magic and feel-good reggae. Even with Franti’s musical history encompassing a myriad of musical flavors including hip-hop, funk, reggae, rock and soul, his blend here gleams with the polish of a pop record. That polish creates a breezy, distraction-free effort that resembles the therapeutic easy-listening tapestry of a John Mayer or Jack Jackson record.

The opening title track, with its warm jubilant melody and acoustic rock ‘n roll-meets-gospel tempo, sets the pace for a righteously exuberant set of songs. “Hey Hey Hey” does a fine job in dismissing life’s worries while summoning the spirit of peace and optimism through his set of inspiring lyrics (“Hey, hey, hey/No matter how life is today/There’s just one thing that I’ve got to say/Won’t let one moment slip away/I’ll hold on”) and the befitting string arrangement towards the end. It’s kinda obvious that “hey” may be Franti’s lucky charm. Either the Oakland native has a sweet attraction for the word “hey” or he’s not afraid to reprise the elements of his big hit. The dancehall grooves of “Shake It,” featuring guest reggae singer Lady Saw, the whistle-enhanced chorus of “Anytime You Need Me,” “Love Don’t Wait” and the upbeat rock jam “The Thing That Helps Me Get Through” (described in the opening as being “rock ‘n roll with a whole lot of soul) allows the album to run from first base to home plate with the blessing of a seamless, uninterpretable flow; giving the album a true and complete album experience.

Still there’s so many great nuggets, smitten with rapturous melodies and Franti and Sly & Robbie’ssuperb production, that decorate the album. “Only Thing Missing Was You” rides like a Bob Marley sensual ballad while the dusk-feeling “Headphones” percolates like a Lenny Kravtiz slow burner. After touring with John Mayer on his “Battle Studies” tour, Franti borrows some of “Heartbreak Warfare’s” elements on”I’ll Be Waiting.” Even though it paces with U2-Rattle & Hum sensitivity, “I’ll Be Waiting” – stuck in the middle of the set – proves to be one of the album’s rarities and blessed moments.

Some will suggest that Franti has taken a backwards’ approach to his Beatnigs’ punk rock and political rap of his Disposable Heroes of the Hiphoprisy beginnings and will find him a little less interesting on his latest celebration of fun, but Franti isn’t a work of plastic. If anything, Sound of Sunshine, is designed as an appreciation letter to his dedicated core of fans. With his Gil Scott-Heron approach to rap and a Bob Marley anointing, Franti’s skill is still hard at work, even on the bubbly crossover pop. Adorned with beach fun and island vibes, The Sound of Sunshineis mighty enough to add warm up the speakers with the California sun in the dead of winter and will certainly expand the fun for Franti’s live sets assure festival season in 2011.




  • Release Date: September 21, 2010
  • Label: Capitol/Boo Boo Wax
  • Producers: Michael Franti, Sly & Robbie
  • Track Favs: The Sound of Sunshine, Hey Hey Hey, I’ll Be Waiting, The Thing That Helps Me Get Through, Only Thing Missing Was You

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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