Spearhead's fourth album of beats and socially conscious lyrics accomplishes two rare things: Its moments of protest are eloquent without being preachy; and its elaborate range of styles neither comes up short nor sounds contrived. A band that has remained a staunch supporter of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene has also carefully soaked in its current musical pulses. Everyone Deserves Music is the stunning result.
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The standout tracks here fall into genres that are somewhat unexpected from a group formerly known for its politicized hip-hop. There are a couple of poignant guitar-led ballads ("Never Too Late," "Love, Why Did You Go Away?") and some slices of quirky Latin-tinged funk ("Pray for Grace," "Crazy, Crazy, Crazy"). "Feelin' Free" uses a drum 'n' bass rhythm but strangely also feels reminiscent of the Style Council's more uplifting ska-inflected jams. And the joyous and wonderful "Love Invincible" beats most contemporary house-music producers at their own game and finds Michael Franti's voice pushed to its soul-drenched limits. The album's most effective political statements are the two versions of "Bomb the World," a boogie built around a simple and yet disturbing thought: "We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it into peace." It seems effective enough the first time around, but then we hear the "Armageddon Version" in which fail-safe reggae artists Sly and Robbie, as producers, add a wall of menacing guitars to change the overall mood from pacifist frustration to activist intention. Everyone Deserves Music should appeal to an expanded sector of listeners who might not have embraced the group before.