Thursday, January 06, 2005

Your One-Stop Shop For Michael Franks Record Reviews

Michael Franks - Objects Of Desire (Warner Brothers - 1982)

On the opener, "Jealousy", Michael swallows a meat-hook. The slightly airless - like someone cracked the can but didn't let enough light in - horns echo his dyspepsia. On "Ladies' Night", Bonnie Rait joins Michael at the bar of the Wishing Well Saloon for some 50 cent drinks. The sessioneers are strutting their well-honed stuff. Or sleeping. One or the other. How could you tell by this point in their careers. Sessioneers? And then some: The Bros. Brecker, Larry Carlton, Mark Egan, Steve Khan, David Sanborn, Lew Soloff, Luther Vandross and many more. You get the picture. The deck is stacked for no-surprise smooth. Michael doesn't fool around when he calls in the pros. And his toothbrush may be gone, but he's still got a tank full of laughing gas. Too bad his vocals were recorded on an MRI machine. But it was the 80's. People were in love with their shiny new machines and their Arps and their OB-Xa's and their Prophet-5's and their digitally processed flugelhorns. Michael fries up rice in a pan in "Wonderland", where the jills ain't jokin' when they take you to heaven for a subway token. "Wonderland" is actually a dream. Hypnotic and warm to the touch. Sometimes that Moog bass can really come in handy. Slow jam as narcoleptic nod-out. While Michael's hot buttermilk vocal tones aren't in any way curdled on Objects Of Desire, there is a weary 70's hangover vibe that invades the material. Even his Tahitian sweety hands him a note that reads: "Love is the pain you can't refuse." M.F. is the king of food and drink as metaphor and reminder of sex/love and on this album he sounds like he's gone on a diet. There is no tea steeping in the pot. He sits under a mango tree, but does he partake in this exotic fruit? Man cannot live on fried rice alone. "Flirtation" has some pep in its step, but it's not very convincing pep. There is no essential vim in its strenuous vigor. "Love Duet" is a lyrical dud. The disco strings and Arthur On The Rocks saxophone begin to take their toll on the listener. The whole thing ends with "No One But You". A pretty little ballad that would sound great coming from Blossom Dearie. M.F.'s best ballads all sound as if they were made to be sung by cabaret veterans in a hotel lounge at midnight. And I mean this as a compliment. Not that he can't sell them on his own. He can. Overall, on this album it sounds like Michael was in need of a long nap (No mean feat for a singer who often sounds like he has recorded his vocals in bed.). Maybe the sexy seventies had caught up with this often horizontal blue-eyed soulman with the bedroom mustache. Lovers can't always be rockin'. Not essential - with the exceptions of the two lovely little trifles that end each side - but the picture on the inside sleeve where Michael looks like Frank Zappa is worth a buck or two.


Blogger hicksy said...

Nicely done, certainly the best review of a Michael Franks album I've ever read. A friend of mine who was something of a lover man was a big or at least good-sized Franks fan. Me, I guess I have cold feet about him (note clever reference to "Popsicle Toes.")


4:32 PM  
Blogger Scott Seward said...

Glad you liked it. There is more to come. And then some. The irony being: Just about the only MF album I don't own right now is the one with "Popsicle Toes" on it. That's on the Art Of Tea album and, thanks to my dad, it's the first one i ever heard when i was a kid. I hated it! Ah, how the worm has turned.

6:17 PM  

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