Michael Franti and Spearhead Yell Fire

After trying his hand at documentary filmmaking during his journey through the Middle East, perennial freedom fighter Michael Franti presents the film’s musical counterpart in Yell Fire, a collection of songs resulting from his convictional tour of duty. What strikes out most about the musical direction of the record — whether intentional or not — are its clear leanings towards a radio-friendly pop sound, as you could imagine more than a few of the album’s cuts fitting squarely into top 40 programming, were they, of course, not so overtly socially conscious. (This tact might explain Pink’s singing back-up on "One Step Closer To You.”) Recorded at least partly in Jamaica with contributions from Sly & Robbie, there are near constant reggae undertones throughout the proceedings, though it’s all very light-hearted and wishy-washy which, combined with Franti’s peace and love message, makes for a party that’s just a little too hippie. The singer reverts back to a far more serious tone for the album closer "Is Love Enough?” asking an important question about what it will take to bring about peace over the sparse, acoustic arrangement that carries Franti’s words a lot than the pristine pop that fills out the majority of the record. (Fig)