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Michael Franti And Spearhead
Yell Fire!
Boo Boo Wax/ Anti- Records

There was a time when reggae was the music of revolution… some few bands have continued to carry on that tradition while the rest of the genre has fallen into lazy songs about marijuana. Michael Franti has released a new record that returns reggae to its political roots and does it with a style and flavor that has been long absent from the reggae scene. The impetus of Yell Fire! was a trip that Franti took to the Middle East last year, spending time with the locals as well as the Americans who were stationed there, just a man and his guitar. Then he returned to the States and wrote and recorded Yell Fire! It must have been an amazing trip, and I'll tell you why…

From the very first word on Yell Fire! Franti is hitting his message home. "Those who start wars never fight them/ and those who fight wars never like them/ those who recite laws can recite them/ and those of us who just fight laws, we live and die them". The title track is a call to the people to rise up and demand a change in the system that has propagated war and the destruction and oppression of peoples all over the world. "I Know I'm Not Alone" is a hopeful throw-down that preaches the message that all people are one people, urging us to throw aside our differences and embrace our human brotherhood. I'll give Franti huge props for certain lines in "East To The West", but especially when he sings out "One to the healer who fights a disease and one to the Lorax who speaks for the trees". Classic. "Sweet Little Lies" is an acoustic mid-tempo love song that is a brilliant respite from the political urging on the rest of the record. It's a lovely track that makes me wish Franti would do more acoustic albums.

The idiom that the world is one nation is heavily continued in "Hello Bonjour" with its strong words and unifying message. "One Step Closer To You" is one hundred percent pure reggae music in its purest sense. The lyrics are an amazing blast of love to the entire world, person by person, but even if you miss the message, the song is filled with groove and cool key modulations and tempo breaks that really capture the best of what reggae music can be. The record continues to have some of the most vibe-heavy and brilliant reggae grooves in years, proving hands down that Michael Franti is more adept at reggae music than most current Jamaican artists… I'd love to put him and Ben Harper in the same room for a few hours of recording and see what turns out.

The songs on Yell Fire! speak heavily with anti-war sentiment, but even as heavily messaged as they are there is an overwhelming feeling of hope and joy in the music of Michael Franti. That has long been the magic of Spearhead and Franti… taking a heavy message and presenting it in a format that their audience can groove to while chanting along with revolution in their eyes, always giving the feeling that life is good and being alive is the best gift we've been given.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Time To Go Home
2. Yell Fire
3. I Know I'm Not Alone
4. East To The West
5. Sweet Little Lies
6. Hello Bonjour
7. One Step Closer To You
8. Hey Now Now
9. Everybody Ona Move
10. See You In The Light
11. Light Up Ya Lighter
12. What I've Seen
13. Tolerance
14. Is Love Enough?

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