Guided by inspiration from his journey to Iraq, Palestine and Israel this past summer, musician/poet/activist Michael Franti heads to Kingston, Jamaica to team up with legendary godfathers of riddim Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and long-time Beastie Boys collaborator, Jack Johnson producer, Mario Caldato, Jr.
This dream team of riddim, beats and progressive innovators can only take the soul-inflicted and politically conscious music of Michael Franti to the next level. Sly and Robbie have produced and performed on countless records over the past 30 years from Peter Tosh to Grace Jones, Simply Red, Mick Jagger to No Doubt. For Franti, the duo will perform and produce live drum and bass parts lending their distinct sound to the record. Kingston based percussion players, Uzziah “Sticky” Thompson, drummer “Bongo” Herman, keyboardist Robert Lynn and Spearhead band members, Carl Young and Dave Shul are featured as well.
Moved by Franti’s music, message and live performances over the past several years, Chris Blackwell steps into the studio with Sly & Robbie for the first time in over 30 years, since his work on the Grace Jones albums, taking on a creative role as executive producer.
Chris Blackwell signed performers ranging from U2, Bob Marley, Black Uhuru, Cat Stevens, Tom Waits to Franti’s own Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy on Island which emerged as one of the most progressive labels in the industry. In addition, Blackwell produced many albums for Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Grace Jones, Joe Cocker and Steve Winwood. Perhaps more importantly, Blackwell’s long affiliation with Bob Marley proved him to be a primary force in introducing reggae into the global pop mainstream. Continuing his innovative instinct, Blackwell launched his Palm Pictures audio-visual label that broke ground by focusing on the DVD format–once again being ahead of the game.
Filling out the team is Brazilian-born producer Mario Caldato, Jr, producer and mixer for such artists as Bebel Gilberto, Beck, Tone Loc, but best known for his work on the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty. Mario C brings his history of hip hop and love of Jamaican music into the project, but most recently and what interested Franti was his nurturing, organic production of Jack Johnson’s On and On and the newly released In Between Dreams.
At the engineering helm is Robert Carranza whose wide array of projects includes Bjork, Jack Johnson, Los Lobos, Eels, Supergrass and Luscious Jackson.
Franti and Blackwell chose to record the album in Jamaica to tap into Kingston’s raw heartbeat. Many of the songs for the still-untitled record were written shortly after Franti’s journey into the war zones of Iraq, Palestine and Israel this past summer. This trip not only inspired a new album, but Franti’s directorial debut and first feature-length film titled, I Know I’m Not Alone, which closed the independent film festival, Slamdance, to a sold out audience and rave reviews and is due for a release along side the new album. The album is scheduled for a fall 2005 release via Palm.