Taken from WestNet (Nov 23, 1994)
REVIEW - Spearhead, Home (Capitol)
The return of Michael Franti - one half of the core of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - sees a marked change in direction and one that will have many pondering over the term 'sell-out'. In reality though, this is where the Disposables were heading. Several of the songs here were performed by the Disposables for several months prior to the split, with an increasing use of live instruments and warmer grooves.
The rub lies in that Franti's new partner, a singer called Mary Harris, provides these songs with what Rono Tse couldn't - a warm soulful female voice in place of a rapping foil and industrial percussion.
"So tell me the definition of a sell-out/Cast the first stone but then get the hell out!" is Franti's answer to the accusations before they start. The point being that this is what he *wants* to do at this moment in time and to do anything else would be a compromise.
And so, the music here is a glorious melting pot of rap, funk and soul with some jazz and blues for extra flavour - sort of Gil Scott Heron meets Sly and the Family Stone with a whole heap of Michael Franti. His voice is the focal point flowing easily between powerful rap and husky crooning and every point in between.
And the lyrics? The lyrics are about *life*. That's *every* aspect of life (or Franti's in particular) from the important stuff like politics, people and love to all the other stuff like sport and food. Franti's comments on the world come through his own eyes rather than the colder third person lecturing of many. He doesn't set out to write a song on the police but gives them a mention when they break up the good time atmosphere at the party he's been telling you about. Things happen naturally and he makes points with more force than a hundred hardcore rappers screaming at the top of their voice do.
The first side is absolutely faultless, with a groove and a vibe so warm and real that Spearhead become your friends after only a few listens. The music and lyrics are involved and have enough hooks to keep an individual riff or line going through your head all day.
The second side is a little bit of a let-down. The loose live-instrument vibe is brought closer to a more traditional hip-hop backing and a song about basketball and one about food seem a little too throw-away. But then you lock into the groove, get lost in Franti and Harris's voices and realise that the songs aren't throw-away, they're just FUN! And anyway, there's a bit more going on in there than you first thought there was.
This has been a great year for albums so far, and this is another one to live your life to.