These 31 digitally remastered tracks across two CDs span Franks’ three-decade career, with something from every one of his Warner Bros. releases plus his Windham Hill album Barefoot on the Beach, performances with the Australian sextet Crossfire and the Yellowjackets, and studio tracks with Joe Sample and Brenda Russell.
Early cuts show Franks as a fusion troubadour, mixing Japanese and Ahmad Jamal influences into zen-pop cool and soft that flowed with more than clever wordplay. “Eggplant” and “Popsicle Toes,” for example, demonstrate the absolute best uses of the words “mayonnaise” and “Tierra del Fuego” that pop music ever saw.
Franks easily moves as a pop singer among the musical elite. He breathes “The Lady Wants to Know” to life with guitarist Larry Carlton, The Crusaders bassist Wilton Felder and keyboardist Joe Sample, saxophonist Michael Brecker, and an orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman. Franks eventually moved from California to New York and found new compatriots in the music nightlife: Bassist Will Lee, percussionist Ralph MacDonald, guitarist John Tropea and drummer Steve Gadd appear on “Cookie Jar,” arranged by Eumir Deodato.
Sadly, somewhere between the first disc in this anthology and the second, Franks’ musical model seemed to change from Mose Allison to Christopher Cross – from a jazz perspective, not for the better.
Personnel: Michael Franks (vocals) with various artists.