The Neville Brothers

There's nothing treacherous about these four New Orleans-bred brothers; they deliver what they promise. But if you want to talk single-minded, that's another story. This two-record set, which includes solo work of both Art and Aaron, shows just how tenaciously the Nevilles have clung to their Crescent City influences over the past three decades. New Orleans has long been a musically fertile area, rife with sounds drawn from West African, Creole, Cajun and Caribbean cultures—with dashes of Mardi Gras Indian chants thrown in. None of these styles seem to have escaped the Nevilles' grasp. From the city's parades, carnivals and back-street bars they've extracted their own body-rocking blend of soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, reggae and rough-and-tumble party funk. Listening to their chronologically ordered retrospective is an easy way to take a crash course in the evolution of down-by-the-bayou rock. The set opens with Mardi Gras Mumbo, a regional hit in 1955 for pianist Art Neville, which still remains a holiday parade anthem. The ballads that feature Aaron's distinctive, falsetto-tinged tenor, such as his 1966 Top 5 single, Tell It Like It Is, and Arianne, show the group at its Louisiana laid-back best. With the help of Charles's jazz-based sax playing and Cyril's galloping congas and timbals, the boys pull out all the stops—and their vocal harmonies—on Fever, Fire on the Bayou and Dancing Jones, which pays tribute to a band the Nevilles toured with during the mid-70s: "Shady Sadie's got a dancing Jones/Every time she hears the Stones/She's just got to shake her bones." Better check your pulse if you aren't moved to do the same after hearing this earthy, fad-resistant collection. (Rhino)

  • Contributors:
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Mary Shaughnessy.