"The last album I purchased by Bobby McFerrin was "Medicine Music", in which he explored everything from Latin grooves, to old time Spirituals, to celestial choral chamber music. Since the release of that album--which I adored--I've not listened to any of McFerrin's subsequent albums. "Circlesongs" jumped out at me because of its freestyle nature, and I wasn't disappointed. Some of the other reviewers have rated it fairly low because of its repetitive nature; it's the chant-like feel of each of the song cycles that gives the album its depth. Listening to how each piece is built and morphs into something different brings "Circlesongs" its charm. The African influences are there, but the feel is less constrictive, more New Age (though I hate the term, it makes sense here!).Circlesong One introduces the listener to how an improvised riff can build on itself to become a fully realized piece of music; the chant is deceptively complicated with its 7/4 rhythm, and McFerrin's voice weaves through subtle chord changes and layers. Circlesong Six is the real masterpiece of the album, with its heavy beat and rumbling bass--think "hip-hop meets Gregorian chant". It's with this song that Voicestra becomes one lovely, strong entity--I think it's here that the African influence is heaviest, with that good old call and response.The album as a whole is a seamless tapestry, with each voice a gorgeous thread. Anyone who thinks of Bobby McFerrin as the "Don't Worry" man needs to listen to this."
David A. Beamer | Clawson, MI United States | 08/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...is one of the best words to describe the contents of this recording. The performers are Bobby (sometimes multi-tracked) and 12 singers. The music is basically spontaneous, although there is a consistency to each Circlesong. This consistency is a germ of a musical idea, which Bobby apparently taught to the singers by rote -- one of the main tenets of the music herein is reliance on "oral tradition" as the means of communicating the music from one performer to another.Speaking in terms of "Western" music (as contrasted with the African background that is obviously an influence), each Circlesong is based on some repeated idea, what could be called a round, or usually more accurately, a "ground bass". The 12 singers (it would be improper to call them either a choir or backup singers here) take the idea and build a structure of sound. Bobby then uses this structure as his jumping-off point, weaving in, out, and around. For American ears, the songs are essentially wordless, so words neither help nor hinder the musical experience.In all, it is a tour de force of ensemble singing, and highly entertaining"
An African Masterpiece
David A. Beamer | 07/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although I had no intentions of ever purchasing a Bobby McFerrin album, I am glad that I did. I've never heard anything quite like "Circlesongs." Bobby McFerrin and crew do a remarkable job of magically transporting the listener to a realm of African chants and verse. It helps for the listener to know that the "Circlesongs" were formed without any rehearsing, making the CD a delectible treat for your ears. In my eyes, this is the most pleasantly charming CD I have purchased to date. If traditional African beats and chants is what you're after, make this CD yours. Outstanding!"
David A. Beamer | 09/16/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent CD. The parts are each sung very well, and the harmony is strangely pleasing. It's a tad too weird for me in a few places, but generally each track is very interesting, unique, and catchy. Speaking as a 2nd bass, if you love to sing I'm sure you'll find this CD worth your time and money."
It's just great!
David A. Beamer | 09/03/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A friend put this CD in my car at the start of a long, long trip, and I don't remember anything else from that drive except the music! It's a very powerful, beautiful album. You kinda start singing along even though you're not sure of the words. :)"