Top positive review
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Start of his departure
on April 27, 1999
If one listens to Mcferrin's early Blue Note recordings (e.g. The Voice), and then just fast-forwards to "Circlesongs", one might say, "Wha... What happened? Why is this so different?". The answer can be found here. Most of McFerrin's work in the 1980s was fairly commercial and "accessible". "Medicine Music" shows some hints of where McFerrin would be heading in the 90s.
The "80s Bobby" can be found in "Baby", "Yes, You", and "Gima", among others. The "90s Bobby" can be found in "Common Threads", "He Ran All the Way", and "Soma So del la de Sase", for example. These latter songs tend toward the wordless abstract note-play of which "Circlesongs" might be called the destination. "Common Threads", for example, uses two syllables, "nah" and "yeah", plus humming and open vowels. In contrast, "The Garden" is a quasi-retelling of the Garden of Eden story, but with McFerrin's own twist, with lines such as "there in the tree there crawled a Lie".
On this recording more than any other to date, Bobby does not hide his Christianity. The last track "23rd Psalm", is even available in choral sheet music for church choirs, although some churches may be a bit off-put by Bobby's twist of referring to the Lord as female throughout. (The notes say the song is a tribute to his own mother.) And to complete the family, his father, Robert McFerrin Sr., puts in a guest appearance in "Discipline". The elder McFerrin is respected opera singer.
All in all, this is an interesting, varied, and pivotal work in Bobby's output. The only reason I marked it with 4 stars instead of 5 is that I prefer his recordings where there's only one copy of his voice ("The Voice", "Spontaneous Inventions") -- this recording is multi-tracked "lots of Bobbys".