For the casual pop music fan, Bobby McFerrin is the one-hit wonder who snapped, popped, and sang himself to 15 minutes of fame with 1986's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." For jazz aficionados, he is a gifted composer and vocal virtuoso, capable of precocious vocal transitions and gorgeous intonations. Don't Worry, Be Happy, a 1988 EMI release, is an attempt to consolidate the breadth of McFerrin's talent onto one album. Predictably, it starts off with the title track, a song that will probably remain prevalent in pop culture as long as humans speak English and play music. For the most part, though, the pop stops there. On a couple of cuts, he teams up with jazz pianist Chick Corea. The duo works well together, producing an ambient, mostly piano version of "Even for Me" and a romanticized rendition of "‘Round Midnight." Jon Hendricks and Manhattan Transfer help out with Dizzy Gillespie's "Another Night in Tunisia," for which McFerrin won a Grammy in 1985. Thankfully, the album does well to give testament to the greatest example of McFerrin's genius: his five-octave range and glowing appreciation for his craft. On "Manana Iguana," he jumps all over the score, making it sound as if it were easy to move from treble to bass clef in a single note. On "I Love Music," he toys with a live concert audience, egging them on to play along with him in his step-by-step vocal maneuvering. The sequencing of songs is questionable, though, making for a jarring listen at times. It starts off with pop, moves into jazz, goes back to energetic simplicity, and then retreats to slow jazz. Nonetheless, the songs themselves are still fantastic. A better Bobby McFerrin Greatest Hits could be made, but Don't Worry, Be Happy still serves as rewarding introduction to an absolute musical treasure.
AllMusic Review by Kieran McCarthy
feat: Chick Corea
feat: Chick Corea