For many years I was excited to have all of Michael's greats in one collection with upgraded sound quality. Both "A Backward Glance" and "Anthology" could satisfy casual fans, but were too brief for lifetime admirers like me. Here was an opportunity to present the truly definitive collection from his almost forty year body of work, but it doesn't quite cut it. And though "The Dream" is the largest compilation of MF's music to date, it is still far from complete.
I understand compilations will never have everyone's favorites, but I think you can complain with 73-track box, if not all essential tracks were included. It is missing some true classics - "Tiger in the Rain", "Mr. Blue", "Down in Brazil", "Vivaldi's Song" just to name a few. The question is why.
CD 1 "Pop & Funky Groove" seems like a bit of letdown. It got a poor start: "Can't Seem to Shake This Rock'n'Roll" and "Born with the Moon in Vergo" simply don't match up to the rest of the set. This also could have been better: so many classy pop and funky songs are left off the disc ("Mr. Smooth", "Never Satisfied", "Soul Mate", "Coming to Life" etc.), which could have fitted, if they hadn't put other less important songs, such as outdated "Now That Your Joystick's Broke". I am also at a loss as to why the funkiest album in MF's discography "The Camera Never Lies", which is without question one of his best, was skipped in it's entirely.
CD 2 "Jazz & Exotic Summer", as its title says, mostly focuses on the jazzy and Brazilian sides of Michael's music. Once again it misses some great songs. The most glaring omissions are "Antonio's Song", "Down in Brazil" and "Island Life" - all these tunes truly belong to this CD. But according to the track list, guys from Rhino consider "The Way We Celebrate New Year's" a summer tune. And we can only guess what's exotic in "Sometimes I Just Forget to Smile" or "When You Smiled at Me". I think all these tracks could easily have been left off.
CD 3 is appropriately titled "Soft & Cool School" and focuses on the softer sounds of Michael Franks. Unfortunately, some of my favorite songs did not make this CD ("St. Elmo's Fire", "Burchfield Nines", and "How I Remember You"). I am especially disappointed by the lack of "Mr. Blue" - the very song that got me hooked to his music. And can true fans of MF say they like "All I Need" more than the unforgivably absent "Tiger in the Rain"?
CD 4 "Rarities & Unreleased Tracks + Duets & Covers" makes the set worth buy. "Coming Home to You" is a pure jewel. Another pleasant discovery is "Somewhere in the Rain" with its sensual arrangements. I also loved "Antonio's Song" sung in duet with Japanese singer Anri, whose voice reminds me so much of the French diva Viktor Lazlo. But "Foolish Heart" and "(Think...) Where Are You Goin?" are just wastes of space. Instead, there is one duet missing here: "You Were Meant For Me" with Michael's muse Peggy Lee - probably, the best one he has ever made. I also think that such rarities as "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" and Mark Almond's fragile rendition of "Vivaldi's Song" would have been welcome inclusions.
CD 5 "Michael Franks with Crossfire: Live" sounds as good as ever. My only criticism about this CD is that it's still in print by Warner, so there was no need to include it in this box set as a rarity. I would prefer the disc with studio tracks missing on CDs 1-3 (to the above mentioned I can add "When It's Over", "Jardin Botanico", "Meet Me in the Deerpark", "Innuendo", "Long Slow Distance", "This Must Be Paradise", "A Walk in the Rain", "The Chemistry of Love").
I don't want to be misunderstood. There is no denying the quality of MF's material but the songs selection drags this set down. Still, despite a few flaws, it mostly handles well as a great buy for devoted MF fans, as well as for anyone who is new to his work.