Reviewed by Marika Pratley The Spark Dec 2009/ Jan 2010
In the album ‘Safer Communities Together’ Blues Don Franks has successfully interwoven politically revolutionary words with his compositional abilities. Recorded in a student flat in Aro Valley, Wellington, ‘Safer Communities’ is comprised – musically – of a wide range of instruments which Don plays, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, and blues harp. There are also contributions by many other Wellington artists (bass, backing vocals, lead guitar, drums).
Don picks up from the tradition of political folk, but his work is distinctive because it discusses contemporary issues directly relevant to people in New Zealand today. It is an important historical catalogue of not only the recent Labour government, but the transition into the new National government which took over in 2008, and the various struggles that activists, workers, and unions have had to fight in that time period. Some songs are written for specific pickets or issues (such as One more Thursday in Black) whereas some are more general in their detest of both Labour and National (I hate the Labour Government, and Fuck John Key). Many of his songs have hints of tongue-and-cheek humour, such as the wedding march riff at the beginning of Talking Civil Union, making it a very entertaining album to listen to.
Don Franks has a clear understanding and sense of direction with his music. He achieves fleshing out a range of moods and this results in a diverse variety of songs, making it an exciting album to listen to with many surprises. There is an air of spontaneity in many of the songs. Take the guns of their hands sounds very much like a punk band jamming together. Free Mumia Abu Jamal has a distinctive drive to it. His partner Jill Brasell used a distortion pedal on her bass which adds a raw flavour to the song. The odd diversion from the folk feel gives to this album a crisp and refreshing quality. Don Franks will be going on tour with a CD launch in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch, so keep an eye out for posters or the Workers Party website.
If you would like to purchase a copy of his CD and cannot make it to the launch contact the Workers Party and we will arrange for it to be sent to you.