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Michael Franks Original Album Series: Five MF albums for a good price, cheaper than individually bought!
on 12 March 2016
Michael Franks was born on September 18, 1944 in La Jolla, South California. (Note: According to Yahoo, La Jolla is one of the best place to visit after a break-up!) A young Michael absorbed the literature of American standards by the greats: Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer, plus the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole. At age 14, he spent $29.95 for a Japanese Marco Polo guitar. He studied English at UCLA. During that time, he was mesmerized by the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Miles Davis. In the late ‘60s, he relocated to Canada, where he opened shows for Gordon Lightfoot and worked briefly with the band Carnival, later Lighthouse. He cut his first self-titled record in 1973 for Brut Records. Then, he was signed by Warner Brothers. His first record on Reprise was The Art Of Tea (its title lifted from the book by Okakura) in 1975. His only charted hit was Popsicle Toes (43/1976). From 1973 to 2012, he has a total of 23 record releases (including compilation and greatest hits). Except the Dream box set in 2012, I have every Michael Franks CD.
Today Michael Franks lives with his wife Claudia in Woodstock. He is indeed the mystical, mellow messenger: the weaver of dreams. He is the wise and gentle poet placing passion fruit at the feet of the sleeping gypsy, transforming her mirages of amore into Tropic of Virgo moonlight she will cup in both hands.
Warner Brothers released this 5 individual CDs in one box set at reasonable price in 2012. This set contains the first 5 albums on Warner (his first self-titled album was on Brut Records). Since the Amazon.ca website does not provide a song listing, I have compiled a detailed song listing (including album label & number, year, name of producer, plus any 45 rpm single releases, charted and uncharted, single label number & year):
THE ART OF TEA (Reprise Records 254048)(1975)(Produced by Tommy LiPuma)
03 MONKEY SEE - MONKEY DO
04 ST. ELMO'S FIRE
05 I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M SO HAPY I'M SAD (b-side to Popsicle Toes)(Reprise 1360)
07 POPSICLE TOES (charted single, US 43/1976)(Reprise 1360)
08 SOMETIMES I JUST FORGET TO SMILE
09 MR. BLUE
SLEEPING GYPSY (Warner Bros. Records 256346)(1977)(Produced by Tommy LiPuma)
01 THE LADY WANTS TO KNOW (uncharted single, 1977)(Warner 8368)
02 I REALLY HOPE IT'S YOU
03 IN THE EYE OF THE STORM (b-side to The Lady Wants To Know)(Warner 8368)
04 B'WANA - HE NO HOME
05 DON’T' BE BLUE
06 ANTONIO'S SONG (THE RAINBOW)
07 CHAIN REACTION
08 DOWN IN BRAZIL
BURCHFIELD NINES (Warner Bros. Records 3167)(1978)(Produced by Tommy LiPuma)
01 WHEN THE COOKIE JAR IS EMPTY (uncharted single, 1978)(Warner 8583)
02 A ROBINSONG
03 WRESTLE A LIVE NUDE GIRL
04 BURCHFIELD NINES (b-side to When The Cookie Jar Is Empty)(Warner 8583)
05 MEET ME IN THE DEERPARK
06 DEAR LITTLE NIGHTINGALE
07 IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT SHAMPOO
08 VIVALDI'S SONG
TIGER IN THE RAIN (Warner Bros. Records 256612)(1979)(Produced by John Simon)
02 WHEN IT'S OVER (b-side to Tiger In The Rain)(Warner 8811)
03 LIVING ON THE INSIDE
05 JARDIN BOTANICO
06 UNDERNEATH THE APPLE TREE
07 TIGER IN THE RAIN (uncharted single, 1979)(Warner 8811)
08 SATISFACTION GUARANTEED
ONE BAD HABIT (Warner Bros. Records 56814)(1980)(Produced by Tommy LiPuma and Andre Fischer)
01 BASEBALL (uncharted single, 1980)(Warner 49556)
02 INSIDE YOU
03 ALL DRESSED UP WITH NOWHERE TO GO
04 LOTUS BLOSSOM
05 ON MY WAY HOME TO YOU
06 ONE BAD HABIT
07 LOVING YOU MORE AND MORE (b-side to Baseball, 1980)(Warner 49556)
08 STILL LIFE
09 HE TELLS HIMSELF HE'S HAPPY
Each CD is housed in its own individual cardboard case with the original front and back covers. The five cardboard cases are housed in a soft cardboard case.
01 Price: If you want to collect Michael Franks albums, these 5 CDs on Warner if bought individually will cost you much higher. The CD One Bad Habit alone is almost the price of the box set.
02 The original front and back covers are retained. The letters for song listing in the back covers are usually very small. Warner smartly put them in large letters at the back of the soft cardboard cover.
03 All the songs are present. In other Original Album Series, like for Elvis Presley, bonus tracks are included. None here, which is alright.
01 Sound: the remastering is still uneven and average. I so happen have 3 of the 5 original CDs. When I compare the sound, it is exactly the same. In other words, the people at Warner/Rhino simply copied the original inferiorly remastered files and just transported over to the new discs, WITHOUT further remastering or refinement.
02 There is no liner note, as present in the original CD. No big loss here because the original liner notes were quite skimpy anyway.
I have every Michael Franks domestic album release, including compilations and greatest hits (except The Dream box set). The sound on this CD is inadequate. It seems that the engineer was either in a rush or simply lazy, just laying down the track files, grouping them together, and that’s it, without properly remastering the audio to obtain the best results. Similar poor remastering occurs in almost all Michael Franks’ individual album releases on Warner Brothers (except Live with Crossfire), until his A Backward Glance: The Best of Michael Franks (1998), and his 2 CD Anthology box set (2003), with improved remastering efforts. So far, the best, brilliant digital remastering occurred in his more recent output (Barefoot On The Beach, 1999, and Watching The Snow, 2003). For myself, having every CD that Michael has released, I have remastered every tune using 32-bit/96kHz, and the resultant sound is simply vibrant, alive and in-your-face. Imagine Michael Franks serenade right in front of you in a pitch-black completely darkened audio room, surrounded by pure, clean, crisp, vibrant instrumental music. It is music at its sublime best! In my own opinion, with the availability of current technology, just slapping the files onto CD without proper digital remastering shows a lack of respect for the artist and his songs.
As a fan of Michael Franks and also a completist, I have remastered all the 23 CDs in my collection. I labeled them as The Michael Franks Album Collection. Also, I have done an exhaustive research and came up with a detailed Singles Discography too, with 2 CDs, featuring 31 songs (containing all the a- and b-sides from 1975 to 1993). Some of the rare b-sides can only be found in individual albums.
This Original Album Series with Michael Franks’ first 5 releases on Warner is an excellent way to collect Michael’s albums at reasonable cost. If you want to read about those individual albums, my reviews of those albums are found elsewhere.
Even though the remastering is average, when you turn up the volume dial, you still can get great sound because the original sound was truly great. The more you listen to Michael’s voice, the more you will fall in love with his soothing lyrics and jazzy music. Please don’t bother with the more expensive Japanese import of those individual CDs, because the remastered sound was horrible.
This 5 CD set, especially those cheaper price through sellers, is highly recommended.