Spearhead- Everyone Deserves Music (Artist Direct)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. What I Be
2. We Don't Stop
3. Everyone Deserves Music
4. Never Too Late
5. Bomb The World
6. Pray For Grace
7. Love, Why Did You Go Away
8. Yes I Will
9. Feelin' Irie
10. Love Invincible
11. Bomb The World (Armageddon Version)
12. Crazy, Crazy, Crazy
13. Taxi Radio (featuring Sergent Garcia)

When Mike Franti disbanded the political-rap band the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, it came as a disappointment. At a time when our country had begun a questionable war in Iraq, Franti had one of the few voices that was not grounded in fact-free patriotism (see The Winter Of Our Long Hot Summer). Among other things, he questioned the rationale of capitalism and called for a generation to take a stand against assumption. He caught the attention of a lot of people, including Bono, who asked the Heroes to join them on tour. Franti apparently tired of (or got tired of dealing with the frustration of) politically-based music, and founded Spearhead, which was grounded more in a African roots music and funk. I certainly understood and, while the music was solid throughout the bands three releases, I missed the guy who was bold enough to say "television, the drug of the nation, bleeding ignorance and feeding radiation" before anyone even considered things like that.

Zip ahead ten years and it's the same thing but even darker. A darker, dumber Bush in the White House, and even more questionable war in Iraq, and another conspiracy of silence and mindless nationalism numbing the country. They made Dixie Chick into a verb, and no one sang anything but the red, white and blue. I suspected the slicing lyrical precision of the Heroes would return in some form, but I didn't imagine Franti would have the ability to fight with a positive message, which was what Spearhead had always been founded upon. Enter Everyone Deserves Music, still grounded in the organic, often world-beat, funky boombox music of Spearhead, but with lines like " we can chase down all our enemies, bring them to their knees, we can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it into peace," from Bomb the World. On the included Armageddon Version, a sultry, pissed off remix of the track, Franti gets the tone just right, while still getting across his message. It is a genius of poetry that can pull off such a lyrical feat, and I applaud him for it. He's come a long way from "Makes me so mad, I want to bomb an institution."

But all is not political on this record, to say the least. From the post-Clash "Yes I Will" to the reggae-folk of "Never Too Late," there are plenty of styles and messages going on here. Never Too Late is a powerful and unique approach to abuse with lines like "Don't fear your father, cause a father's just a boy without a friend." But as always it's the voice, Franti's smoky, world-weary baritone, that nails you.

On Everyone Deserves Music, Franti sounds more confident and powerful than ever before. He has found his voice, the medium to express it, and his message is a powerful expression of community, love and positive change. In the course of a decade he's gone from Chuck D to Curtis Mayfield to a voice entirely his own. Some may find his approach too idealistic for these times, but I like to think that the right message stated loudly and clearly is often the most effective.

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