Michael Franks & Terong (Eggplant)

Picture5In 1976 Michael Franks released an official major label debut, after his 1973 eponymous album on a short-lived record tiny label. Album The Art of Tea established Franks unique sound and a recording process throughout his career. Primarily a jazz artist, he crossed over to pop and rock fans through heavy FM airplay. Beginning with sensually suggestive and playful tracks, such as “Popsicle Toes” and “Eggplant” contain sly wordplay and breezy sound. I was always obsessed with Franks’ tittles and lyrics, I guess the Eggplant’s song is something about sexual innuendo. It is the metaphor, “whenever I explore the land of Yen, I always take one on the chin”, that he has learned to play the game her way. Then, “the lady sticks to me like white on rice”, obviously he can’t stop thinking about “it” with her. So strong self explanatory when, “she never cooks the same way twice”, also, “my baby cooks her eggplant, ’bout 19 different ways. Just like similar approach as Steely Dan did with its music and lyrics, Franks’ singing and songwriting formed the basis of a sound rooted in the support of top-notch musicians, many of whom were the hottest studio jazz players on the scene. Franks just doesn’t buy into the top-40 school of “hook or forget it” songwriting. He’s more interested in weaving quirky, esoteric images over solid grooves, with his voice, still wistful and onion-skinned. And -of course- he has continued to grow as an observational lyricist, and he never sings the same way twice.

Vokalis melankolis dgn suara khas berkesan malas, melantunkan lirik karya sendiri yg penuh metaphora serta menyentuh. Ciri khas Michael Franks yg bernyanyi sejak SMA, hanya ditemani gitar akustik tanpa itikad merdu sok artis. “Aku ingin pendengar lebih fokus pada kisahku, intim seperti sahabat”, ujarnya. Maka ia memilih kuliah sastra di UCLA, meraih PhD jurusan bahasa di Oregon. Pernah terbayang ada judul lagu serius, Terong? Beberapa teman maya dari Jepang pernah kutanya, apa sih sebetulnya cerita tentang Terong? Karena Eggplant menceritakan pengalaman Michael saat liburan di Jepang dgn seorang gadis lokal. Beberapa referensi menyebut tentang vegetarian, tapi aku lebih tertarik pada ungkapan yg kebih “dewasa” sekaligus humoris. Bagaimana ia memasukkan pula “La Giaconda”, nama sosok Mona Lisa karya Da Vinci.

Selanjutnya fans di Indonesia akrab dgn beberapa judul seperti One Bad Habit, The Lady Wants To Know, Vivaldi’s Song, Down in Brazil, termasuk Antonio’s Song untuk Antonio Carlos Jobim. Menjelang dua dekade berselang, ia merilis album Dragonfly Summer yg berisi rangkaian penghargaan bagi para sahabat dan legenda, Antonio Jobim, T. Monks, Peggy Lee, hingga Lucy sang komedian yg juga nama kucingnya. Publik lebih mengenal album ini lewat How I Remember You. Setahun kemudian meluncur album Abandoned Garden, khusus untuk kepergian sahabatnya, Antonio Jobim. Tokoh Bosanova yg paling banyak mengilhami karya Franks maupun rekan kerja sama. Agaknya seolah penutup karir komersial Franks, iapun harus berpisah dgn perekam Warner Bross. Faktor yg membuat pamornya terus meredup meski jejaknya tetap abadi di telinga 70-80an. (nDy)

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