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Bobby McFerrin: VOCAbuLarieS

Audio Samples

>Baby
>Say Ladeo
>Wailers
>Messages
>Garden, The
>He Ran to the Train
>Brief Eternity

Track List

>Baby
>Say Ladeo
>Wailers
>Messages
>Garden, The
>He Ran to the Train
>Brief Eternity

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

2010 release from the 10-time Grammy Award winner/vocal innovator, his first new release in eight years. Like his #1 worldwide hit song 'Don't Worry Be Happy' and his multi-platinum duo album, Hush, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, VOCAbuLarieS is based on Bobby's experiments with multi-track recording and his ceaseless exploration of the potential of the human voice. VOCAbuLarieS is Bobby McFerrin music for the 21st century. A collaboration with the composer/arranger/producer Roger Treece, VOCAbuLarieS features over fifty of the world's finest singers, recorded one at a time and in small groups to create a virtual choir made up of over 1,400 vocal tracks.

"VOCAbuLarieS took seven years to put together, and it shows. Not only is it vocalist Bobby McFerrrin’s most ambitious and wide-ranging work to date, it is also one of the most complex albums ever constructed. Remarkably, it contains more than 1,400 vocal tracks recorded by over 50 top singers, individually or in small groups, before being assembled to create a virtual choir... The climax of the album, Brief Eternity, pairs McFerrin and Fischer as lead vocalists, creating a spine-tingling combination. But VOCAbuLarieS is greater than any one track, the whole being a kaleidoscopic celebration of the human voice." -BBC

Engineers: Roger Treece; Bruno Canale; Gary Eckert.Liner Note Authors: Jeff Tamarkin; Karen Goldfeder.Recording information: Alex Acu?a Studio; Audible Art, New York, NY; Gem Studios.Photographer: Carol Friedman.Bobby McFerrin has always been a wildly restless talent, continually looking to develop fresh ideas for the human voice and place it in -- sometimes wildly -- different contexts from simple folk and pop songs to improvisational settings to strident compositional frameworks. His productions include duet records with instrumentalists Chick Corea and Yo-Yo Ma, as well as the creation of a virtual a cappella choir from his own vocal overdubs. All of this said, there has always been "something missing" from his recorded works that shows itself in concert, outside recording studio confines. On VOCAbuLarieS he seems to have found it. This is the work that anyone remotely interested in McFerrin needs to hear. Collaborating with composer, arranger, and conductor Roger Treece over seven years, McFerrin's been given a foil who not only understands his previous output, but can focus his ideas and take them to the next developmental peak. The pair employed over 50 vocalists from different genres and nations to create a virtual choir in the studio. According to a press release, they cut over 1,400 vocal tracks. The music here is "fusion" in the most seamless and beautiful sense of the word: classical, pop, soul, Middle Eastern, African, and Eastern European vocal traditions all move together, and encounter one another head-on. They meld into a whole where the seams show, but are elegantly aurally tailored to create something entirely new -- even if the material always isn't. Three selections here come from the controversially beautiful Medicine Music album, from 1996. But the versions here are radically different than the originals; the voices, rhythms, textures, and even ambiences of these voices have a more muscular quality, much more forceful and complex while simultaneously being more "listenable." The opener, "Baby," provides proof. In the original it was a simple folk song, a lullaby with African roots; here is it a harmonically challenging, intricate labyrinth where 22 singers accompany McFerrin as well as a rhythm section. "Wailers" is a pulsing chant with Middle Eastern, African, and Eastern European harmonies woven together by singers who include Sussan Deyhim, Luciana Souza, and Janis Siegel. "He Ran to the Train" combines -- in a wholly new way -- two tracks from Medicine Music in an explosively knotty, compellingly emotional call-and-response piece that is as rhythmically complex as it is harmonically. The set closes with "Brief Eternity," a new piece of modern sacred music that evokes everything from Gregorian chant and polyphony to John Tavener and Arvo P?rt. VOCAbuLarieS is easily McFerrin's finest moment on record as well as his most ambitious, and should win him some new fans even among cynics

"Imagine photographer Art Kane's "A Great Day in Harlem" repopulated with singers of all stripes, culled from jazz, pop, R&B, opera and world music, and you begin to understand the immensity of Bobby McFerrin's latest experiment in vocal alchemy. Developed over seven years with co-producers Roger Treece and Linda Goldstein, VOCAbuLarieS features 53 singers - including McFerrin, Treece, Manhattan Transfer's Janis Siegel, all four of the New York Voices, Luciana Souza, Theo Bleckmann, Curtis King, Lisa Fischer and Rhiannon - variously blended across some 1,400 vocal segments.

Three of the seven tracks, though thoroughly reconstructed for this project, will be familiar to McFerrin fans: "Baby," "The Garden," "He Ran All the Way" and "The Train" (the latter two entwined as "He Ran to the Train") appeared two decades ago on Medicine Music. VOCAbuLarieS opens with the re-imagined "Baby." Like a lullaby floated atop the gentlest of breezes, it distills eight minutes of pure infantile joy and indefatigable curiosity. The soaring "Say Ladeo" folloSws, shaping the album's thematic cornerstone with its message that "the melody will tell the story as we go along." The wordless "Wailers" suggests a sleek herd of gazelles sweeping across a dusk-lit plain. "The Garden" unfolds like rainbow-colored blooms stretching toward the sun, and the closing "Brief Eternity" progresses from hymnlike solemnity to a swirling exercise in dream dancing. But the most compelling of these masterpieces is "Messages," a cornucopia of languages constructed by lyricist Don Rosler that rises like a melodious Tower of Babel, exalting the incomparable beauty of universal harmony." - JazzTimes

Album Reviews:

JazzTimes (p.72) - "'The Garden' unfolds like rainbow-colored blooms stretching toward the sun, and the closing 'Brief Eternity' progresses from hymnlike solemnity to a swirling exercise in dream dancing."

Uncut (magazine) (p.95) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he best tracks, like 'Baby' and 'Brief Eternity' are pitched between funky gospel congregation and austere Bulgarian choir."

Album Notes

Liner Note Authors: Jeff Tamarkin; Karen Goldfeder.

Recording information: Alex Acuña Studio; Audible Art, New York, NY; Gem Studios.

Photographer: Carol Friedman.

Bobby McFerrin has always been a wildly restless talent, continually looking to develop fresh ideas for the human voice and place it in -- sometimes wildly -- different contexts from simple folk and pop songs to improvisational settings to strident compositional frameworks. His productions include duet records with instrumentalists Chick Corea and Yo-Yo Ma, as well as the creation of a virtual a cappella choir from his own vocal overdubs. All of this said, there has always been "something missing" from his recorded works that shows itself in concert, outside recording studio confines. On VOCAbuLarieS he seems to have found it. This is the work that anyone remotely interested in McFerrin needs to hear. Collaborating with composer, arranger, and conductor Roger Treece over seven years, McFerrin's been given a foil who not only understands his previous output, but can focus his ideas and take them to the next developmental peak. The pair employed over 50 vocalists from different genres and nations to create a virtual choir in the studio. According to a press release, they cut over 1,400 vocal tracks. The music here is "fusion" in the most seamless and beautiful sense of the word: classical, pop, soul, Middle Eastern, African, and Eastern European vocal traditions all move together, and encounter one another head-on. They meld into a whole where the seams show, but are elegantly aurally tailored to create something entirely new -- even if the material always isn't. Three selections here come from the controversially beautiful Medicine Music album, from 1996. But the versions here are radically different than the originals; the voices, rhythms, textures, and even ambiences of these voices have a more muscular quality, much more forceful and complex while simultaneously being more "listenable." The opener, "Baby," provides proof. In the original it was a simple folk song, a lullaby with African roots; here is it a harmonically challenging, intricate labyrinth where 22 singers accompany McFerrin as well as a rhythm section. "Wailers" is a pulsing chant with Middle Eastern, African, and Eastern European harmonies woven together by singers who include Sussan Deyhim, Luciana Souza, and Janis Siegel. "He Ran to the Train" combines -- in a wholly new way -- two tracks from Medicine Music in an explosively knotty, compellingly emotional call-and-response piece that is as rhythmically complex as it is harmonically. The set closes with "Brief Eternity," a new piece of modern sacred music that evokes everything from Gregorian chant and polyphony to John Tavener and Arvo Pärt. VOCAbuLarieS is easily McFerrin's finest moment on record as well as his most ambitious, and should win him some new fans even among cynics. ~ Thom Jurek



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