Long Roads, Short Visits

Bob Franke

(Daring Records CD 3031)

Rounder Records
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch

Reviews are about letting you know that artists like Bob Franke exist. This is a veteran who has been more than thirty years making music, but for earthly reasons is not famous. His songs have been performed by many artists in those years, but Franke is a great singer and performer of his own songs. His versions are definitive. It is hard to believe someone giving more insight to his songs than he does.

1995, and the release of The Heart Of The Flower, saw Franke changing labels and getting a new audience. This was a great album, ending I can guess in many top ten lists of the year. It included many of his best songs, or should I say masterpieces, like Waiting For Nineveh To Burn.

Well, Long Roads, Short Visits is even better. It has a wholeness, that was missing in the previous CD. The songs link and flow from one another in their mood, as if they were a movie. There may not be a masterpiece like Nineveh in it, but then it seems as if Franke is not able to write a bad song even if he tries.

The music and singing of Franke give you a feeling of deja vu, like he has always been there, like his songs had to come from the earth. He reminds me a bit of the late Tim Hardin, and of the mellow jazz singing of the fifties. This is late night music at its best.

Each one of the songs seems to need a review by itself, each song tells a story, and even each sentence could be open to many meanings. In the opening song The Roads Are Longs In Canada, in which the long roads is the teacher to the soul of the narrator:

It took a night in Canada
to recognize my soul
to heal some dark and hollow time"

We also find the verse: "And if God in her heaven seems so far away"

No, that's not a mistake, it is the feminine God. And it works, somehow God seems closer as a woman. This is the first time I've seen the use a feminine God in a song in the English language. However, this is common in Hebrew, in the old testament and specially in the Kabala, feminine and masculine are used to describe two different parts of God.

I found very realistic and funny the song Je T'Adore of a trip and a love affair in which nothing goes as planned, and is the opposite of the romantic dream of this city:

Our visit to Paris was trifle outré
We went in the spring, and it rained everyday,
I confess that I don't feel chic...

I discovered Franke two years ago after reading a review, and my reaction was: "How come all these magazines I have read all these years didn't tell me about this singer?" I guess I was reading the wrong magazines or, out of the many reviews that one reads with so many superlatives about CD's that turn out to be bad, one can't really be sure. So, take this one, if you have any interest in singer songwriters, vocal jazz, old timey, or just good singing, look for this CD. It is one of the best I have heard this year, and in the week it has been in my house I heard it ten times, more than any other CD I have reviewed.

And for those into the mystic or into numerology the total playing time of this CD is 44 minutes and 44 seconds. Did I hear someone saying coincidence?

Song list:

  • The Roads Are Long in Canada
  • Inland Sea
  • There's a Last Time for Everything
  • In the Place of Trust
  • For Real
  • I Won't Feel Lucky
  • Slow Down
  • Je T'Adore
  • William the Streak
  • Straw Against the Wind
  • Saturn Blues

Edited by David N. Pyles

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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