The 75-year-old veteran of all things that are musically real, black and beautiful, returned in the summer with this sublime eleven tracker proving to be one of the main ‘hoggers’ of my laser flicker this year. It’s one of those albums I never want to tire of, you know the sort of thing, you stumble over it on the shelves and say to your self “I’ll play that another time”, so I’ve limited my access to it, but it just creeps its way back to shatter the silence of the music room and the car. It really is a thing of beauty, with all of the last 50 years of black music shaping its heritage. And then there is of course, those unmistakable vocals cementing the whole album, and taking it to a level rarely reached by other mere mortals. As with the majority of his output, he appears at times to be singing about past mistakes and regrets with always one eye on the future.
Kicking off with the explosive “Be Your Man”, soulies of a certain age will be transported back to dark and dingy cinema in the early 70’s when black exploitation movies could be seen, this could be a Willie Hutch production, huge potential here for an aspiring DJ to make a name, but it’s Aaron Neville, it has a southern influence – wasn’t he one half of the Neville Brothers? So no chance then, well hang on, I’m on at 4am at an allniter and this will be aired, so that’s at least one play then, next up is “All Of The Above”, a mid-60’s influenced stroller with its chink chink base line, stabbing horns… oh yes this is superb, the kind of tune the late Amy Whinehouse would have excelled on (incidentally the horns are borrowed from the Daptone stable and don’t they sound just so right). Another highlight is “Orchid In The Storm”, a lovely free-flowing dancer that will be played for years to come, it has real staying power, oh and there’s a sneaky Wurlitzer in there too.
“Hard to Believe” has a Caribbean feel to it, with those horns dominating the opening seconds, however it develops into a superb stepper. The other track that hit me first time round was “I Wanna Love You”, another down tempo stroller of immense depth and of course our man’s superb voice sits atop the rhythm effortlessly, telling his lady “It aint complicated baby, I wanna love you” telling her to open up her heart. I just love it.
“Sarah Anne” takes us on a foot-tapping Doo Wop ride, with all the glorious subtle key changes you would expect (including that Wurlitzer), horns bathing his vocals, and played loud this really is the business. “Make Your Momma Cry” is another horn drenched insidious groove which seeps into your head – simply fabulous.
The album ends with “Fragile World”, a spoken piece of social commentary over a busy musical back drop – listen, the great Linton Kwesi Johnson could have done this to huge acclaim, so what’s wrong with Aaron Neville giving it to us? What an album.