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Review: Aaron Neville, "My True Story"

The most angelic voice in the Nevilles returns to his doo-wop roots

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Review: Aaron Neville,

Aaron Neville's "My True Story" album

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Although he had a major (and timeless) hit with 1966's soul classic "Tell it Like it Is," Aaron Neville fought long and hard to find an audience as large as his talent, struggling for decades alone, in duets, and with the Neville Brothers to get the popularity warranted by his amazing voice. When he finally got there, unfortunately, he did so as an adult contemporary crooner interpreting songs that were often not worthy of him. So it's great to see him returning to oldies music after trying his hand at country, standards, and gospel. But is this the artistic triumph he's had coming?

About this album

  • Release date: January 22, 2013
  • Label: Blue Note
  • Catalog number: 623489
  • Musicians:
    Aaron Neville: lead vocals
    Keith Richards: lead guitar
    Art Neville: organ
    Greg Leisz: guitar
    Benmont Tench: piano
    Tony Scherr: bass
    George G. Receli: drums
    Lenny Pickett: saxophone, flute
    Dickie Harmon, Bobby Jay, David Johnson, Joel Katz, Eugene Pitt, Earl Smith Jr.: backing vocals

  • Produced by Don Was and Keith Richards
    Engineered by Phil Koly, Ben Lorio, William R. Moesta IV, Chris Shaw
    Mastered by Bob Ludwig
    Art direction by Hayden Miller

Pros

  • Aaron Neville leaves the adult contemporary airbrush behind for once.
  • This is an excellent selection of R&B oldies that obviously mean a lot to the lead Neville.
  • The backup band is top-notch, the arrangements tasteful, the production spare.

Cons

  • Neville's voice, beautiful as it may be, isn't suited to absolutely everything.
  • The off-the-cuff performances lack energy at points.

My review

As one of the last living old-school soul voices, and one possessed with a completely unique, freakishly expressive, and nearly beatific tenor, Aaron Neville needed to make a return-to-roots album. As someone whose tenor only became noticed after a decades of near-obscurity and a series of somewhat sterile adult contemporary duets with Linda Ronstadt, and who's been trading on that revival for a full two decades now, we needed the reset as much as he does. Factor in producer Don Was, noted for refurbishing classic artists, and a band that includes not only one of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers but no less than Keith Richards himself playing lead, and it seems like, to use an appropriately Francophonic phrase, a fait accompli. His hometown of New Orleans never produced any significant doo-wop groups (though the Spiders could have been, significant that is), but Aaron did grow up singing these standards in the Calliope projects, and so they have real meaning to him.

Mostly, it works. Don Was has gone on record as saying that Aaron himself kept changing the setlist as the band rehearsed, turning what would have been a straight doo-wop set into a melange of Fifties R&B and early-Sixties soul. A voice like that always needs to roam a little stylistically, but as beautiful a force of nature as it is, it doesn't work for everything. The Drifters' "Money Honey" and "Ruby Baby," not to mention Hank Ballard's "Work With Me Annie" and Thurston Harris' "Little Bitty Pretty One" need a higher register to come across, not to mention a bit more passion; Neville's pipes are a better fit for numbers that's aren't so raw. It's no surprise that his other Drifters cover, a medley of their late-period hits "This Magic Moment" and "(If You Cry) True Love, True Love," works better. He's always been more Ben E. King than Clyde McPhatter.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
Aaron Neville's My True Story, Member FrankDrDoowopFox

Elated but disappointed- the number I love the most here in the new foray into the past with Ting a Ling, the old Clovers tune. The groove and the vocal is vintage 50's joy and exhuberance. The band has the grip and the vocals have the zip! My second favorite is the Jesse Belvin chestnut - Goodnight My Love done in Aaron's unique styling- beautiful!. Third is My True Story , but this is insulting to fans of Gene Pitt who is singing on the recording in the harmony and doesn't get to vocalize a chorus- where is the grace here Aaron? Gene is still a force to reckon with and he needed to be featured on his own hit song, that would have put this performance over the top. The rest of the material has been done too many times or is not recorded in the right key- Aaron sounds tired and uninspired on Tears on My Pillow and the key is not bright enough for his lyrical renditions of the Drifters tunes by McPhatter and Charly Thomas Ben E King and Johnny Moore. My biggest disappointment was not letting background vocals shine in the mix- the little bit I caught of the TV PBS special to be aired in March was very exciting becuase it was live and had Paul Simon and Joan Osborn mixing it up with Aaron. Don't get me wrong Aaron can still sing like and around Clyde, as he did in his Warm Your Heart album decades ago, but I waiting for the real harmonized bluesy gospelish sounds to hit the airwaves. Redo this album in higher keys and reharmonize the backgrounds to make them sound more heartfelt- You did it on Ting -a-Ling- you can do it to every tune, i will listen forever if you do

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