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Taken from The Cleveland Free Times (Feb 12, 2009)

Rebel With A Cause

Michael Franti & Spearhead At House Of Blues On Sunday
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by Dan Harkins


When you fight the powers that be, it's wise to have an army at your side. Michael Franti's been building one for years - progressive but detached legions across the festival-going globe with an eye for his walk-the-walk aesthetic and an ear for his gratuitously varied groove. And when he says dance, like he does on his latest album All Rebel Rockers, they do. A worldly mix of German, Irish and African, a vegetarian and yogi, a composer and poet, a world activist and shoeless traveler since 2000 (originally as an anti-poverty protest) - the 42-year-old Oakland native has shown his fans for years how best to lead a peaceful yet revolutionary life. His music helps. Starting with fierce lyrics and hardscrabble rap, Franti led the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy to critical acclaim and an opening spot on U2's Zoo TV tour. Then, in 1994, he branched out to incorporate the funky soul in his heart by creating Spearhead. Since then, he's built a reputation for lyrical supremacy in hippie land. Perhaps you've seen this ubiquitous line from his post-9/11 song "Bomb the World" on a T-shirt or bumper sticker: "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace." It's one of dozens of stick-to-your-brain truisms that mark his work with distinction. But if it were just the stirring lyrics that stood out, you could read them in a book. Luckily, the musings are set to feel-good, head-bobbin' riddims coursing through a timeless roots/rock/soul/folk/rap heart of gold. Franti and Spearhead have evolved through stripped-down folk/reggae into more roots-rock-heavy riffs with wailing harmonic choruses on All Rebel Rockers, an album of dub-inflected dancehall music tempered with their ever-present issue-oriented approach. Sprinkle in some love songs, and what you've got is yet another evolutionary advancement for the People's Republic of Franti.

 
 

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