With his unique voice, Aaron Neville is a legend not just in his native New Orleans but right across the soul world. What’s more in a five decade career he’s displayed a chameleon-like ability to work across a range of genres – funk, sweet soul, Cajun, gospel – even country have all been grist to Aaron’s mill. For this, his new long player, though, he returns to his roots with a set of covers of songs that influenced him in his youth… the songs of the doo-wop era.
“When I was a kid, doo-wop was like medicine to me. I didn’t care what else was going on as long as I could sing along with Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels, The Flamingos, The Clovers, Sonny Till and the orioles, Clyde McPhatter – I was like a kid in a candy store” says Neville and because of those warm memories he treats the chosen songs with due reverence – never straying too far from the original templates. To help him deliver he uses Keith Richards and Don Was (now the president of Blue Note) as producers and between them they make a marvellous job of 50s and early 60s classics like ‘Money Honey’, ‘Ruby Baby’ and ‘Tears On My Pillow’. Other great moments include the reading of Jesse Belvin’s ‘Goodnight My Love’ and the much more upbeat ‘Ting A Ling’ (originally recorded by The Clovers but probably better known in a pop version by Buddy Holly). Best of the bunch, though, is the cover of the Impressions’ ‘Gypsy Woman’. Yes, it’s not technically a doo-wop song (nor is ‘Be My Baby, also included) but it’s from the tail end of the doo-wop era and Neville’s strained vocal has just the right amount of melancholy to suit the song’s theme. Curtis would have loved it. Neville, Was and Richards don’t meddle. They and the band (Greg Leisz (guitar), Benmont Tench (organ) George G Receli (drums) and Tony Scherr (bass)) know they don’t need gimmicks and pyrotechnics. They just let the naive innocence of the material and the wonderful Neville voice do all the work.