Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Neville Brothers Neville-ization 1984

The Neville Brothers have had trouble putting together a studio album that does them justice. They've come close with Yellow Moon and Fiyo On The Bayou, but there's always something missing, especially if you've seen them live.

I spent one of the best nights of my life at Tipitina's in New Orleans on a sweaty June night seeing the Neville Brothers perform live. They were the hottest live band anywhere, but at home they were totally over the top smokin'.

This set, recorded in 1982, is the only way to get close to that experience. Live On Planet Earth from 1994 is good, but this set, recorded at Tipitina's in 1982 is the filet gumbo gris gris voodoo jambalaya muffaletta authentic slice of the Big Easy.

Side One opens with Fever, and the band does a great arrangement of this chestnut, all dynamics and harmonies and rocking, driving drums. And a killer sax break from Charles. Woman's Gotta Have It is a soulful mid-tempo number before Mojo Hannah, Art Neville's story of "a mojo worker, gonna end my misery, she gonna send my baby back home soon - work it up, Hannah" that is all syncopation and swamp funk. Then Aaron does a classic Tell It Like It Is, and he's in fine form in 1982. Art's Why You Want To Hurt My Heart ends the side on a swinging, light pop note.

Side Two is non stop action. Fear, Hate, Envy, Jealousy kicks things off. It's a rocking, funky workout that makes dancing into oblivion a viable option in response to the lyrical sentiment. Then the band does a rocked out Caravan (the Ellington one) that features Charles on sax and the entire band on perfect cooking. Big Chief rocks the Mardi Gras vibe, and then Africa closes the set with an incendiary version of the Meters classic. If you can sit still through side two, you're over-medicated.

The band is seven people that play so tight they sound of one mind the entire time. The four brothers are assisted by Willie Green on drums, Darryl Johnson on bass, and Brian Stolz on guitar. All three are perfect at every turn. With Art's keys, Cyril's percussion, Aaron's vocals and Charles' sax, you don't need anything else. It's not a flashy outfit, but they are always in sync with each other, and not a note is wasted. A great record from a band that should have made many more this good. They've come close, but they've never bettered this one.

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