on 4 May 2010
This album is a joy, from beginning to end. Much richer and deeper than his well- known work from the 80's, McFerrin invokes diverse musical styles from many traditions. Vocabularies journeys through many landscapes from its funny opening to its final sleepy whisper. Funky to serene, intense to jokey, from the dusty township (think Ladyship Black Mambazo) to the mountains of Bulgaria ( Mystere des voix Bulgares,) by way of Manhatten Transfer, the sky and your own living room. We talk to the spirits, sing to baby, and just have fun. It's all pure magic.
Producing and composing, Roger Treece is McFerrin's major co- contributor to this work. Huge credit must also go to each of over 50 singers and instrumentalists, who blend seamlessly into this truly glorious chorus.
Thanks to the clever use of woodwind and especially percussion (Alex Acuna,) we hear a vocal band, not a traditional choir. Wonderful on the set's closing piece "Brief Eternity" are the boy sopranos. There is a section of "Wailers" sung by an audience over 2,500. Languages, ensembles, dynamics and effects, this disc uses the widest imaginable vocal palette.
But "Messages," to my taste, is the very summit. I'm never satisfied to hear this song just once: it always demands at least one repeat hearing.
It features lyrics in many tongues, a core chant in Sanskrit, and a wonderfully evocative musical scale (with both a flattened second degree and fourth.) Disappointing and frustrating that here the lyrics in the booklet don't match properly what is sung. Is that a reason not to buy the album- no! Is it a reason to listen even more carefully and try learn the missing syllables the old- fashioned way? Absolutely!
"Vocabularies" is life- changing music. A blessing from McFerrin and Treece to the whole world. Be blessed.
on 7 April 2011
I am one of those who basically only knew Bobby's "don't worry, be happy" and a couple of other live performances where he was playing with his virtuoso voice to the amusement of the audience (and himself!), so i found it almost shocking to hear what's in this album: it's so opposite to the spontaneity i had always associated to Mr. Mcferrin!
A very carefully crafted album, full of tracks that are almost entirely out of the pop genre (they're long and hard to remember) more like modern classical pieces, full of nuances and evolving out of the verse-chorus pop schemas into a flow of sound and emotions. Yet, it keeps some catchy phrases which will keep ringing in your head after you've heard it a couple of times.
Bobby's voice is mostly merged within the talented voices of the choir and together they paint the landscapes of one's imagination with the musical flavours of different ethnics and cultures.
I am very much looking forward to the performance in Finland in 3 weeks. If they achieve only half of the refined sound that's captured in the CD, i'll be more than happy to have spent 45 euros to see them live.
on 23 September 2010
Time and time again Bobby Mcferrin has demonstrated new ways of using the human voice, and this album takes it to the next level. The 7 tracks are beautifully composed with twists and turns, with incredible harmonies and motifs. The choir is made of some of the world's top session singers, and the whole album is expertly recorded and produced. It blends music styles from all over the world, from Africa and Asia, and from jazz and gospel - there is nothing like Vocabularies.
NO, my title is wrong. This is THE GREATEST vocal album of all time. This is beautiful beyond description. It is sublime, a work of genius, art of the highest order. No wonder Bobby took three years to make this masterpiece. The album features an array of wonderful soprano singers with Bobby on lead vocals all the way. It is a spiritual experience mixing African, Opera, Jazz and World music into a music that just wants to give glory to God. I don't need to say any more. Thank you to Bobby and all those who made this album especially Roger Treece. What a wonderful assembly of voices resulting in nothing short of bliss.
on 28 October 2013
I was introduced to this album by hearing a track played on BBC Radio 3. It truly is a marvellously uplifting album that mixes a huge range of influences, and even seems to invent a few of its own. A bunch of very talented singers turning out the audio equivalent of deep, warm sunlight.
on 13 March 2011
Suffice to say that after hearing this album on an airline audio, I ordered the CD as soon as I could. Bobby McFerrin has set his standards high, showcased his wonderful talents and musicality and has given us this excellent album. The on-line reviews of the album describe the content and the immense work which went into the planning and recording in great detail. If you appreciate great music from a hugely talented artiste, then you should own this album; it's as simple as that.