Dream 1973-2011 Box set, Original recording remastered, Import
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EU five CD anthology from the Smooth Jazz/Pop singer/songwriter. Together with Steely Dan, James Taylor and Christopher Cross, Michael Franks is one of the original sculptors of the West Coast/California sound. His musical alchemy is unique: Jazz, Pop, Funk, Bossa, Soft Rock and Fusion. In 38 years and 18 albums, he has collaborated with the greatest Jazz and Pop musicians and has created some of the most memorable West Coast in the process. This box set offers the best of Franks' output on five CDs. The first four disc are separated into different themes. The fifth CD contains the rare live recording from Michael Franks with Australian band Crossfire. This 73 track box set contains hits, fan favorites, rarities and so much more. Rhino.
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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"Soul Mate", "Coming to Life" etc.), which could have fitted, if they hadn't put other less important songs, such as outdated "Now That Your Joystick's Broke".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.
Yet casual fans might be better served by "The Michael Franks Anthology: The Art Of Love", which hits most of the highlights and is sequenced chronologically to boot.
Longtime Michael Franks fans will have all the material from four of the five discs, and may find the rarities disc insufficient incentive to fork out for the entire box set. (only ONE previously unreleased song ("This Will Never Do")? And ONE other making its CD debut, heretofore only available on vinyl ("Coming Home To You")?
For the price, "Christmas Time Is Here" (from David Benoit's "Remembering Christmas"), "Let It Snow" (from "Jazz to the World"), and the original non-duet version of "Island Christmas" would have been nice. Perhaps in place of the songs on which Michael doesn't even perform!
My hope is that a more comprehensive roundup of his rarities, compilation appearances and - dare I say it - unreleased recordings will eventually be released.
His first album (10 songs) is the only documentation of his pre-jazz pop sound. Hard to believe that up until that point he didn't put even ONE other song to tape. Nary a demo? A live recording? An FM broadcast? A cassette of him singing "White Boy Lost In The Blues" to Sonny & Brownie?
And were there no other songs left over from 40 years of making albums? One would think he must have at least demoed the remaining yet-to-be-released songs from his musical "Noa Noa".
More tantalizing, what of the material that's known to be out there but hasn't been made available on disc? Most notably, "Life On The Street", from the ABC TV movie "Are You My Mother?". Or the song "The Ballad of Billy" and the version of "Little Sparrow" which were on the soundtrack of a film variously known as "Face To The Wind" and "Count Your Bullets".
How about it, Rhino - maybe dig a little deeper into the archives next time?