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My True Story
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AARON NEVILLE - MY TRUE STORY
"These songs helped to mold me into who I am," says Aaron Neville. "They're all dear to my heart, and they rode with me, in my bones, through all these years."
With MY TRUE STORY, one of the world's finest singers is revisiting the music he grew up with, and adding a few new spins along the way. Neville's first release for Blue Note Records is a collection of twelve classic doo-wop numbers, performed in his utterly inimitable vocal style, and co-produced by Blue Note President Don Was and Keith Richards.
The selections on the album include classics by such vocal-group giants as Little Anthony and the Imperials ("Tears on My Pillow"), Hank Ballard and the Midnighters ("Work With Me, Annie"), and the Drifters ("Money Honey," "Under the Boardwalk," "This Magic Moment"). To Neville, though, these songs weren't just the soundtrack to his youth; they became the underpinning for all of the remarkable music he has created across five decades.
"I attended the university of doo-wop-ology," he says. "Anything I do has got some doo-wop in it. It’s just part of me—it’s the texture that I’m singing in, it’s the endings, it's the harmonies. At 3 o’clock in the morning, I wake up with a doo-wop song going in my head and I can’t go back to sleep because I’m singing it over and over."
Yet the recordings on MY TRUE STORY aren't simply imitations of the original sessions. For one thing, some of the songs included—like the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" or "Gypsy Woman" by the Impressions—come from a slightly later time period than the classic doo-wop era, and aren't usually classified as part of the genre. But Neville explains that for him, it's not the calendar that matters, it's the vocal approach.
"Doo-wop started with five guys, like the Clovers—or five girls, like the Chantels or the Shirelles —singing harmony together on a bench or a stoop,” he says. “My own favorite place was the boys’ bathroom at school, because it had such great acoustics. So I always thought 'Be My Baby' was a doo-wop song, because it’s a lead singer with harmony singers.
“I came up in the doo-wop era, and if I heard something and thought it was doo-wop, then it was. So if it didn’t fall in that category before, then it does now!"
The other twist given to this material is that while doo-wop tended to keep the emphasis squarely on the vocalists, MY TRUE STORY sees Neville backed by a top-flight rock & roll band, led by the distinctive, propulsive guitar work of Richards himself. The other musicians include Greg Leisz on guitar (Beck, Sheryl Crow), Benmont Tench on organ (founding member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), George G. Receli on drums (Bob Dylan), and Tony Scherr on bass (Bill Frisell, Norah Jones).
"Doo-wop songs centered around the vocals,” says Neville. “But with these great musicians, we could highlight the musical side of it too-this record is a combination of all of it, to bring it up to date."
Richards—who Was approached when he remembered that the guitarist kept the Jive Five song "My True Story" playing on a loop in his room during the making of the Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge album—describes work on the album as "the perfect session." Twenty-three songs were cut in five days, all of them live and many in the first take.”
"Opportunities like this don't come 'round very often," says Richards. "I grew up with these songs, like Aaron did. It's such a pleasure to play with a voice like that, and the band all fell straight in together—I never saw such a bunch of hardened musicians act like a bunch of kids."
Neville explains that having internalized this music so deeply, he was able to show the musicians the genuine old-school feel that these songs require. "On songs like 'Ting a Ling' and 'Work with Me, Annie,' I had to kind of dance the groove I wanted," he says with a broad smile. "I had to move around and bob and weave and show them that strut like when you’re walking in New Orleans. But this band was ready for anything, they were jumping on it, and everything came out so easy."
As if all of these ingredients weren't enough, several singers from the glory days of doo-wop joined the sessions to provide backing vocals on a number of the songs, including Eugene Pitt of the Jive Five (who co-wrote the album's title song), Bobby Jay of the Teenagers, and Dickie Harmon from the Del-Vikings. Neville’s touring bass player, David Johnson, drummer, Earl Smith, Jr. and Joel Katz also lend their voices to some of the arrangements.
MY TRUE STORY represents a culmination of Aaron Neville’s incredible career, which has seen him move seamlessly back and forth between solo work and his role in the first family of New Orleans music, the Neville Brothers. His first hit single was the landmark "Tell It Like It Is," which held the Number One spot on the R&B charts for five weeks in 1967. He went on to win Grammy Awards for his triple-platinum 1989 collaboration with Linda Ronstadt Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, and reached the Country charts with the title track of 1993’s The Grand Tour. A member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, his most recent project was the gospel album I Know I’ve Been Changed in 2010.
Don Was says that it was an easy decision to bring the legendary Neville to Blue Note. "Nobody sings like him," he says. "He's a great artist, a guy with integrity and excellence and authenticity—and that’s what the label is really about."
When Was and Neville discussed possible projects, the singer indicated that recording an album of doo-wop songs had long been a dream of his. He adds, though, that his recent relocation to New York City after losing his home to Hurricane Katrina, and his recent marriage, gives MY TRUE STORY additional significance.
"It’s definitely extra-meaningful," he says. "I have a new life, I’m singing to my wife Sarah. I think God knew I wanted to do it and he waited for the right moment. He made the stars align, and he said, 'Aaron, it’s time for you to do some doo-wop."
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language: : English
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 5.5 x 0.25 inches; 3.48 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Blue Note
- Original Release Date : 2013
- Date First Available : September 15, 2012
- Label : Blue Note
- ASIN : B009B1EOVA
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #16,504 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
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great man and exceptional artist. He breathes new life into classic hits (check out "Ruby Baby" and I defy you to stay in your chair. Dion, you've met your brother-in-arms) and has an incredible back-up band behind him for this juicy bit of Time Travel. These musicians dig deep and find plenty of originality, yet they always keep the Original version on a nearby pedestal. Not a false note on the whole album. Throbbing romance, shoulder-shaking grooves, high notes
(hell, yeh) and low growls. "Oldies"?! -- nope, this a whole bunch of freshness, son. Excellent.
Ps: If you like mid-century black male vocal music you might want to check out the German Bear Family Records' series titled Street Corner Symphonies: The complete History Of Doo Wop. This extraordinary series is filled with many familiar and uncommon Doo Wop jewels with a audio quality that is perhaps better than anything I have ever heard on cd. Pricey but absolutely worth it.
He does some of these songs quite well but misses the mark widely on others. Even with Eugen Pitt backing him he strikes out on the title song. None of Pitt's orginal lead's anguish comes through. Too soft, not plaintive enough. Another problem is some of these songs have been done too many times: Goodnight My Love, Money Honey, Ruby Baby and Under the Boardwalk lead the list. Actually each of those has better cover versions out there than this offers. Basically this mirrors many of Neville's lps. There are always about 3 songs to play over and over again and 7-8 to forget about. I'll let you pick which 3 from this disc.
For 3 stars it is worth occasional plays but it's nowhere near being placed in heavy rotation.
My only complaint is that he took the safe route of including some of the softer songs that came along once black artists were invited into the mainstream. Tears on my Pillow, Under the Boardwalk and Goodnight My Love are well done, but so familiar that they didn't add much. Overall, it's just a fun CD to have in the mix and I always am asked about it when one of the songs pops up.
Overall, enough of the songs work, and we are still talking about the great Aaron Neville, so this CD isn't a total failure. But it could have been so much better.