Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bobby McFerrin

  • The Voice [Musician, 1984] B-
  • Simple Pleasures [EMI-Manhattan, 1988] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Voice [Musician, 1984]
He's an innovator, he's a virtuoso, he even has a sense of humor, but he's also a mite precious, not to say arty, and this unaccompanied scat demonstration encourages his formalistic proclivities. As with so many solo recitals, technical display is emphasized; fact is I've heard numerous saxophonists do more with "Donna Lee" and numerous drummers do more with "I Feel Good." One reason the voice is such a sublime instrument is that it can pronounce words, and give or take a catchphrase or two the only ones he bothers with here are his own lyrics for "I'm My Own Walkman." Wonder when some creative type is finally going to stick up for those of us who'd rather consume music than manufacture it. B-

Simple Pleasures [EMI-Manhattan, 1988]
No matter how much aid and comfort it gives the enemy, there's no point denying "Don't Worry, Be Happy" unless you're tin-eared enough to think it doesn't capture a feeling or deluded enough to think poor people never share it. Title tune's the real Republican lie--McFerrin's celebration of 6 a.m. wakeup neglects to mention that his morning is unencumbered by a j-o-b--and even that's probably a tragic consequence of some fundamental mindlessness. Passing as an Artist on skill and fluidity alone, he's a vocal Keith Jarrett come down with the cutes--or maybe a musical Marcel Marceau. B-