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Michael Franti & Spearhead: All People



The always earnest Michael Franti updates his sound a bit for 2013, smoothing some edges, but keeping the focus on hopeful music.

The opening "All People" finds Franti and Co. veering toward the neo-disco dance sound that's grown increasingly prevalent this year. While the message of universal equality is spot-on and encouraging, Franti's rap-bridge lyrics about rocking everywhere can be terrible. "We rock Burning Man because it's very necessary" might well be the worst.

Franti shows a more poignant side on "11:59," a don't-take-anything-for-granted burner that integrates the electronic elements much better. It's the first of two promising songwriting collaborations ("On and On" being the other) with producer The Matrix that practically beg for at least a shared EP.

The celebratory radio single "I'm Alive" rides along with a whistled melody, encapsulating Franti's sound and message perfectly.

The semiballads "Long Ride Home," "Life Is Better with You" and "Closer to You" are a drag on the album, failing to serve the role that the acoustic-and-drum-machine closer "Say Goodbye" does so effectively.

All People again finds Franti mostly but not entirely, in full Peace and Love mode, his jam-tinged reggae and light hip-hop turned a bit more pop and electronic than usual.

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