Sound: The latest release from Michael Franti & Spearhead is really nothing out of the ordinary for this Oakland, CA native. Packed with both high-energy, danceable tunes and slower, soothing songs, All Rebel Rockers is a thoroughly enjoyable, feel-good album. Compared to Franti's earlier material with Spearhead, All Rebel Rockers has a softer, more relaxed feel to the album as a whole, with more of an emphasis on the music and lyrics rather than one's ability to wave their hands and dance. That being said, however, the album does maintain an upbeat feel from the first track to the last, and some of the most best songs are indeed the ones that hold on to a louder, harder reggae sound. Songs like Life In The City, or Say Hey (I Love You) are seemingly created for the purpose of cheering up the listener and forcing him to just move along with the music.
Production-wise All Rebel Rockers is absolutely fantastic. From the softer songs to the heavy, each tune is beautifully crafted, evidence of both Franti's own talents and, to a larger extent, the mastery of renowned Jamaican production team Sly and Robbie. Funky bass lines, thumping drums, catchy guitars and keyboards, and a plethora of digital effects and sounds all are perfectly mixed, providing a wonderful backdrop for Franti's rough but soothing voice. // 7
Lyrics: Vocally, Michael Franti stays true to form, delivering his message via rough, raspy vocals that, depending on the song, serve either to excite or soothe the listener. Also in keeping with the precedent set by earlier albums, All Rebel Rockers is laced with guest appearances. This time around, Franti employs the talents of such artists as Marie Daulne of Zap Mama and Cherine Anderson.
As is the case with vocals, the album's lyrics are hardly uncommon ground for the group, though in Spearhead's case, there is nothing wrong with this. What has always impressed me about Michael Franti is his ability to convey powerful, political messages in a rather positive, peaceful, and uplifting way. All Rebel Rockers is no exception. Songs like Life in the City implore the listener to stop focusing on the wrongs in the world and live happily, telling him to Throw your hands up high, because you never know how long you're going to live 'till you die. Later in the album, tunes like The Future and Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong, (one of the gems of the album) sadly describe the current state of the world, feelings of disconnection, and what is to come with future leaders and future plans.
Despite the majority of the album offering social/political commentary and advice, Franti does venture into different territory, writing about love and romance on songs like All I Want Is You, (a surprisingly lovely song) or I Got Love For You (actually one of the weaker songs on the album - nothing about it sticks out). // 7
Overall Impression: All Rebel Rockers is a very solid though very typical release from Michael Franti & Spearhead. Current fans are sure to enjoy the album, which may serve new listeners as a nice introduction to Spearhead's sound and style. Staying true to form, Franti brings to the table a consistent reggae style to the album, though as stated before, it feels a bit more subdued, low-key, and airy this time around. This is not to say, however, that Franti steers clear of the high-energy anthems that he has put out in the past. On the contrary, some of the most enjoyable (though not necessarily the best) songs, like Life In The City, on the album are those that keep to this older formula. Where Michael Franti & Spearhead do stand out on the album, however, is in their ability to successfully pull of both the heavier reggae sound as well as a softer, more soothing style (e.g. All I Want Is You, or Have A Little Faith), all the while putting forth moving messages that are both very political as well as positively inspiring.
Key Songs: Life In The City, Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong, The Future, Hey World. // 7