All Rebel Rockers

Michael Franti is a man of seemingly opposing characteristics; he is passionately political and he’s relentlessly optimistic. His lyrics confront all manner of social ills while his music can only be described as bombastically joyful. Even when the man is dealing with life and death issues there is either an explicit or tacit accent on celebrating life.

Recorded in Kingston, Jamaica with the premiere reggae producers Sly & Robbie, All Rebel Rockers pulses with dub, reggae and soul beats, hip-hop rhymes, and a global vision. Franti leaps into that vision on the opening track; “Rude Boys Back In Town” features master dub production and an account of Franti’s globe trotting adventures that have taken him from Hiroshima to Jerusalem to Habana. His message to the world is revolution through music, power through rhyme, and rebirth through unity. Franti expresses his musical warrior self on “Hey World (Remote Control)” and “Soundsystem” (featuring dancehall queen Cherine Anderson) in which he advocates change through music.

Another topic that rises to the surface on All Rebel Rockers is death. Franti’s recent world travels have taken him to Iraq and other war-torn countries. The experience seems to have imparted a sense of destiny and fate that permeates even the sweetest ballads. “Hey World (Don’t Give Up)” is a subdued number that ponders religious strife, child soldiers, gang violence and immigration. Despite it’s poppy beat and sing-a-long chorus “Life In the City” reminds us that our Constitutional rights have been compromised and that life is short and should be recognized as a conditional gift. Franti is plenty aware of governmental overstepping as he questions homeland security measures in “The Future.” The amazing thing about this song is while you shake your head at his prescient points you’ll also notice that you’re feet are pounding to the massive beat that impels you to move.

Not every song is politically motivated. “All I Want Is You” delves into the problem of a lover who is both a blessing and a curse. “High Low” is a love song that features Marie Daulne of Zap Mama, and “Say Hey (I Love You)” is an absolute celebration of love. It’s the rare artist who can make you think while you dance and, while his enthusiam may have been tempered by recent events, imparting a sense of joy into life is one of Michael Franti’s greatest gifts.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)