Bobby McFerrin will always be remembered for his 1988 omnipresent hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," which is fine, really, because that song perfectly reflects McFerrin's belief that music should calm, heal, soothe, and redeem, and all of his recorded work before and after that breakaway hit fits right in line with that philosophy. On spirityouall, McFerrin centers things around black spirituals, a genre he sees as at the epicenter of American music, full of a kind of musical strength that puts joy, persistence, redemption, and a belief in personal and collective freedom up against the horrors, pressures, marginalization, and pure evil the world can generate in our lives. The album is also a tribute to his father, Robert McFerrin, whose 1957 album Deep River brought black spirituals into the world of the concert hall and high art, and like that groundbreaking release, this album opens with the same song, an easy rolling "Everytime." In all, there are seven traditional spirituals here, including "Joshua" (full of McFerrin's jazzy scat singing), a joyous and syncopated "Whole World," and the pulsing, nuanced, and flowing "Wade," alongside an intimate cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and five McFerrin originals, and the whole sequence adds up to the audio version of a warm comforter blanket. By the time the closing track, "Rest/Yes, Indeed," a two-step spiritual hoedown, rolls in, the world seems not only bearable but better in all dimensions. Music can soothe the savage soul, goes the old adage. McFerrin believes it does even more than that, providing a bridge and a gateway to joy and redemption in a world that all too often seems to want to sweep all of our souls over a cliff. On spirityouall, McFerrin does what he has always done as an artist -- he makes this troubled world shine bright as a diamond.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett