How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Michael Franks'Barefoot on the Beachbreaks little new ground - it's another batch of slinky, laidback yet hooky pop-jazz confections with Franks' trademark clever, playful lyrics. (I swear Franks must hold the world record for number of metaphors and euphemisms for lovemaking.) But this is a particularly enjoyable batch - the sunny tunes are particularly bright, the love songs are especially romantic, and the heartbreak songs have a bit more angst. Of course, Franks always helps his own cause by hiring the best of help, this time including producers Chuck Loeb and Jimmy Haslip, and musicians Michael and Randy Brecker, Steve Gadd, Bob James, Steve Khan, Will Lee, Bob Mintzer, John Patitucci, Dave Samuels, and more. They aren't particularly identifiable in their own right, but they contribute just what is needed to each song. Valerie Simpson duets with Franks on "Now Love Has No End," and Franks takes a swat at Broadcast Architecture's programming stranglehold on the smooth jazz airwaves with "Mr. Smooth." (Windham Hill Jazz 11443)
Tracks:Barefoot on the Beach; Heart Like an Open Book; Now Love Has No End; The Fountain of Youth; When You Smiled at Me; Double Talk; Every Time She Whispers; Why Spring Ain't Here; A Walk in the Rain; Mr. Smooth; The Moon Behind a Cloud. (62:37)
Michael Franks, vocals; Jay Azzolina, guitar; Jim Beard, string synth; Charles Blenzig, keyboards and drum/percussion programming; Michael Brecker, sax; Randy Brecker, trumpet; David Charles, percussion; Brian Dunne, drums; Steve Gadd, drums; Wolfgang Haffner, cymbals; Jimmy Haslip, bass and keyboards; Chris Hunter, alto sax and flute; Jim Hynes, flugelhorn; Bob James, keyboards; Bashiri Johnson, percussion; Birch Johnson, trombone; Steve Khan, guitar; Will Lee, bass and background vocals; Chuck Loeb, guitar; Larry Lunetta, trumpet; David Mann, flute; Bob Mintzer, saxophone; Jeff Mironov, guitar; Chris Palmaro, keyboards; John Patitucci, bass; Shawn Pelton, drums; Mike Ricchiuti, keyboards; Dave Samuels, vibraphone; Valerie Simpson, vocal (duet on "Now Love Has No End"); Andy Snitzer, saxophone; Tawatha Agee, Carmen Cuesta, Lani Groves, backgroung vocals.