Aaron Neville has a heavenly singing voice. I've heard his biggest hits many times on the radio and in various contexts over the years, I've seen him on TV a few times, I've never quite been able to completely disassociate him from Horatio Sanz's crooning, crazy-for-cocoa-butter city court judge on Saturday Night Live, but until now I had never really gotten around to finding out if I might become a true Aaron Neville fan.
And here he comes at 71 with a brand new album, produced in part by none other than Keith Richards. Doo-wop covers. Popular songs from the past that still inspire him. His loyal fans will enjoy it, but what about the rest of us?
The most familiar songs (such as "Be My Baby" or "This Magic Moment") are presented here in beautifully but politely sung versions that seem to lack some of the charisma and passion that made the hit versions so great. Neville puts his stamp on them, but it's a little bit of a sleepy stamp that sounds nice but may not warrant repeated listening for less than devoted fans.
The sleepy factor creeps into most of the songs really, and I found myself wanting to hear a little more raw feeling, a little more energy - I felt like I wanted to hear someone like Sam Cooke sing some of these songs instead. Which isn't fair really, because Aaron Neville is not Sam Cooke and Sam Cooke is not Aaron Neville, and if I was going to compare the two then maybe I should listen to Neville's 2006 album, Bring It On Home - The Soul Classics.
Sleepy or not, Aaron Neville always sounds good, but there are two songs on this album where to me, he sounds really wonderful. Check out the falsetto-laced title track "My True Story" and the broken-hearted "Tears on My Pillow." While My True Story doesn't convert me into a true Aaron Neville fan, it does leave room for the possibility that I still might become one some day.
Constant Listener (aka Andrew Lee)