On his debut Bobby McFerrin bore some resemblance to jazz singers like Al Jarreau and Betty Carter, but lots of this material is relatively straight 80s pop that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hall & Oates album. Some of the pop stuff is actually decent, as on “Feline”. Unfortunately, there are only a few a cappella (or mostly a cappella) tracks that demonstrate the unique vocal abilities McFerrin possessed. His next album The Voice, recorded live, completely a cappella, was a major step forward, stripping away the overt commercialism of this debut.
Link to an article by Matt Taibbi:
At the Crossroads has some of the benefits and all the drawbacks of any typical James Carter album. He plays to the audience, recontextualizing bits of the past with a lot of charisma. Maybe he doesn’t reach to do this as much as he has elsewhere, but he still does it. But he also plays in front of a band that seems a little too conservative for his solos. When I’m feeling unkind, I would even say he pulls a Sidney Bechet and purposefully has the band sandbag by playing dull tropes to make him sound more impressive by comparison. Anyway, there is a bit too much lazy blues and lounge-y stuff here, and the occasional vocals seem to lack any sort of edge, but occasionally it hits, like on “The Hard Blues” and “Aged Pain.” If all this sounds like a pretty tepid endorsement, then it suits this lukewarm effort.
Link to an article by Rachael Dwyer:
Bonus link: “Notes on Kampf”
Link to an article by Norman Solomon: