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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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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".
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on November 26, 2000
Although a few of these songs are longer than they need to be, most notably the 6:14 track "The Train," this is a pretty solid album which contains some of the absolute best of Bobby McFerrin. It is VERY diverse, running from pop songs like "Baby" (it is worth remembering that this album immediately followed the soaring media success of "Don't Worry, Be Happy") to the stunning, most-powerful-song-ever-in-the-history-of-music final track, a feminized version of the 23rd psalm with Bobby singing something like 12 distinct tracks in layers of sound. Along the way we get to hear Bobby's Voicestra provide depth and volume for tracks "Sweet in the Morning" and, with the addition of McFerrin Senior's strong Basso, the powerful "Discipline." If you want a McFerring album that is more consistent but less strong in each track, try his "Best of" CD or perhaps go for his classical move "Hush" with Yo Yo Ma; if you want the gems, go for this one.
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on June 11, 2002
This for me is Bobby McFerrin's masterpiece. Using mainly just his voice, he has created an album of songs which taken together celebrate all that is human and all that is holy. And especially the beauty of the human voice. "Sweet in the Morning" is a superb collaboration with the Voicestra. I especially love "Yes, You", "The Garden", "Angry (Gima)", and "Soma So De La De Sase". As for the 23rd Psalm, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.
God bless Bobby. I've loved his more recent works, including the wonderful "Beyond Words". "Bang Zoom!" is also a superb album. Medicine Music always moves me, and remains my favourite work of his. In fact, if I could only have one album in the entire world, this would be it!
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on March 18, 2001
The 12th track --- "The 23rd Psalm (Dedicated to My Mother) is worth the price of this CD. It's a musical prayer unlike any other.
I also love "Common Threads" (5th track) and "Sweet in the Mornin'" (6th track).
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on August 18, 2000
A wondrous voice, an original thinker. A unique take on vocal music. Bobby McFerrin is a unique vocal stylest and virtuoso, who has a voice that can do virtually anything. If that is not blessing enough, Mr. McFerrin has a fertile imagination and a command of music to maximize on his impressive vocal capabilities. For me, this album is ingenious. You listen to this album with slightly different ears than you would a traditional vocal album. He melds ancient music forms, gospel influences, vocal improvisation with modern aesthetics and creates something truly magical. Save for one appearance of his father, Robert McFerrin (Operatic Baritone), on one cut (also an excellent voice, now you know where he gets it), Bobby does all the vocals. The vocal arrangements are intricate, the harmonies complex. Some songs like "Medicine Man" come across as a little repetitious, but if you listen with different ears you hear the wonderous layers that each of these piece has. "The Garden" is just gorgeous. Here Lyle Mays of "The Pat Metheny Group" fame, provides very very subtle accompaniment, so much so that the instruments and Bobby's harmonies seem to meld. The album masterpiece is "The Train", this piece is simply amazing. Bobby's voice provides the harmonies and a churning percussive effect. A driving, dancing, rhythmic beautiful and inventive piece of music. It churns, dances, and builds to a climax and then it magically and suddenly shifts to yet another "groove". Kudos to Bobby for surprising us, yet again with a truly different and delightful album.
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on March 20, 2014
ladies and gentlemen: the indomitable Mr. Bobby McFerrin! It was early 1990's when I first heard "VOICESTRA!" It was PBS, (Channel 15 WHRO - Norfolk, VA) and when my mom realized my engrossment, she commented how he went shoe-less on stage.

From this seed, came today's a capella... enriched by the human voice, articulated by living vocal chords, and overflowing with the voice of the Creator both rhythm and harmony tumble over each other; giving wave after wave of ecstatic joy.

Should you ever wonder what the "First Musical Concert" was like, then buy this - and EXPERIENCE it!
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on July 10, 2013
As Classically trained Soprano, this is not the type of music I am normally drawn to but McFerrin is so accomplished in his arranging and vocal range that any genre can be taken on and understood and partaken of. This artist is a Must be staple in all music libraries.
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on January 6, 2003
Anyone who saw the documentary Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt will probably burst into tears listening to its namesake "Common Threads" track by association. Yes, "Common Threads" is the theme to the documentary, and the documentary where it gets its title from.
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on July 6, 2015
This has been my favorite Bobby McFerrin album to date, largely because it strikes a balance between production quality and creative freedom.

By production quality, I mean that there are many overdubbed tracks that create a thick, rich sound, and these songs can fairly be called full compositions (in contrast to his earlier works, which tended to be wonderful and raw, but compositionally simpler, with fewer layers, more repetition, and more improvisation).

The creative freedom comes from the exploration of his roots. It's an interest confluence of traditional African sounds and a distinctly American voice. This is definitely more pentatonic and less jazz-influenced than his earlier works, but McFerrin breaks into some impressive licks from time to time, and I think it's exactly that mish-mash of traditional harmonies and jazz flair that makes this album really fun to listen to.

As usual, it's amazing that almost everything you hear is coming from one man (overdubs notwithstanding). Two exceptions are Sweet In The Morning, which feature Voicestra, and Discipline, which features his father. Both are welcome changes of pace, since it can become a little wearing listening to one man's voice for long stretches at a time, even if that man is Bobby McFerrin.
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on January 11, 2007
Not the type of CD that makes me stop what I'm doing and listen, but the sort that invokes that comfortable "at peace" feeling. It's more "produced" that other McFerrin CD's that I've heard, but very well done. If you like what Bobby McFerrin has done in the past, I'm sure you'll appreciate this work.

I purchased it to study his treatment of the 23rd Psalm which is first rate work.

Recorded at Skywalker Ranch so the sound quality is sterling - a real treat to listen to.
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