Medicine Music

For his first album since he dominated the 1989 Grammys, the ”Don’t Worry, Be Happy” man has gone universal, at least as the word might be understood within the bounds of a New Age hotbed like Marin County. ”I am a medicine man,” says showman-turned-shaman Bobby McFerrin on Medicine Music‘s opening track. ”I got music to dispel your blue/There is nothing that I cannot do.” Certainly his one-man-band vocalism — a true phenomenon in the annals of post-’70s feel-good jazz — is as slick and impressive as ever. And yes, the songs on this album display a genuine grasp of musical styles and cultures, ranging from Native American chant to traditional spirituals (”Sweet in the Mornin’,” beefed up by his new choral group, Voicestra) to the islandy lilt of ”The Garden,” a single as consciously naive as ”Don’t Worry, Be Happy” but less catchy. The one quality McFerrin’s cool vocal technique can’t seem to deliver is the emotion that most people listen to singers for. That vacuum is not so much filled as spotlighted here by lyrics running mainly to newly hip eternal verities: odes to God, Heritage, Fatherhood, Babyhood, and Wifehood, not necessarily in that order. The result is an album so relentlessly life-affirming it could drive you to drink. C-

Medicine Music
  • Music