Vocalist and composer Michael Franks has had a long career of which anyone would be envious. Since his launching pad hit “Popsicle Toes,” Franks has consistently released strong jazz oriented recordings featuring the best jazz musicians in both backing and featured roles. Like Kenny Rankin, Franks found a unique way to present his soft pop without ever sounding dated. Time Together is yet another fantastic Franks release featuring the best jazz musicians sweetly swinging behind Franks’ eye-winking lyrics.
Now in his late 60s, Franks’ voice still sounds as full, resonant and wry as ever. What makes this recording one of his best is the total lack of pretentiousness. It’s almost as if he realizes he’s not going to get any airplay, now that smooth jazz radio is dead, and instead of trying to fit himself into predetermined airplay rule boxes he just sits down to sing 11 of his own looking-back-at-life songs.It’s too bad he’s not on tour with Paul Simon, because Franks, like Simon’s latest release, aims for content over frivolity and depth instead of an appeal for popular recognition. In Frank’s release we hear this best on the ocean washes at the beginning of “Summer In New York,” as well as in the heartfelt Till Bronner introductory trumpet solo. Jeff Loeb’s producing on this track is superb. Layering the light rhythmic groove above the keyboard chords places Franks’ voice front and center, where he has always belonged.
Every tune is a highlight, and not just for aging hipsters who remember Franks from his earliest beginnings. Youthful ears will love the sassy “One Day In St. Tropez” with Gil Goldstein’s trademark understated sassy arrangement. “I’d Rather Be Happy Than Right” brings Chuck Loeb’s guitar out front. While Loeb may be looking for guitar respectability with his latest blues oriented release Plain ‘n’ Simple, it’s in producing this kind of light and laid-back music where Loeb as his strongest voice.
“My Heart Said Wow” is a throwback song, sounding more like Franks’ earlier compositions in its off-kilter vocal rhythms juxtaposed against angular rhythm section metrics. Straight-ahead jazz trumpeter Alex Sipiagin’s trumpet solo adds a sweet color to this ironic cynical lament resulting in one of the best tracks on the disc; too bad it’s so short. This is a perfect disc for those looking for a singer songwriter with depth in this, the age of pop flash.