Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart – A & M Records (1991)/ Original Recordings Group (2012) ORG 141 audiophile 45 rpm stereo vinyl (2 discs), 49:56 *****1/2:
(Aaron Neville – vocals, percussion; Don Grolnick – piano; Brian Stoltz – guitar; Carlos Vega – drums, percussion; Tony Hall – bass; Russ Kunkel – drums; Larry Klein – bass; David Lindley – guitar; Linda Ronstadt – vocals; Ry Cooder – guitar, slide guitar; Bob Glaub – bass, percussion, vocals; Dean Parks – guitar, mandolin; Larry Carlton – guitar; Pias Johnson – tenor saxophone; Jimmy Johnson – bass; Dr. John – piano, percussion, vocals; Cyril Neville – conga; Bob Seger – percussion, vocals; Daryl; Johnson – bass; Jim Keltner – drums; rap – Jason Neville; with backup vocals by Renee Armand, Rosemary Butler, Rita Coolidge, Donny Gerrard, Willie Greene Jr., Arnold McCuller, Bobby King, Valerie Carter; and The Grace Episcopal Choir; with The Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and many others)
There are many influential musicians from New Orleans. Among them is singer Aaron Neville. As part of the Neville Brothers group or as a solo performer, his shimmering, vibrato-laced tenor voice has no equal. As early as 1967, he was on music radar with the hit single, “Tell It Like It Is”. This song achieved crossover status, but momentum as a solo artist never materialized. He contributed to several funky Cajun/soul albums with the Neville Brothers. Additionally he recorded a duet project with Linda Rondstadt (Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind ) which yielded another hit, “Don’t Know Much”. His phenomenal vocal talent was highly regarded by fellow musicians and critics.
In 1991, Neville hit the studio to record Warm Your Heart. With an impressive lineup of session players and guest stars, the New Orleans native showcased his talent, and versatility. Opening the album is a heart-wrenching version of Randy Newman’s, “Louisiana 1927”. Prior to Katrina, this was the symbol of Louisiana flood lore. After the familiar opening strings begin, Neville gracefully recounts the exasperation of a devastated community. Though strongly associated with Newman, Neville’s angelic voice adds deep sentiment and anguish. (Of course, as in many Newman covers, a controversial word was replaced). In keeping with the aesthetic singing, there are lush backup vocals. Next, there is a funky shift to r & b grooves on “Everybody Plays The Fool”. David Lindley contributes his ska-infused guitar riffs to re-invent this ‘70s number by The Main Ingredient. A key to the success of a cover singer is material selection. This is certainly the case here. Neville glides through John Hiatt’s “It Feels Like Rain”. Neville’s affinity for transformative soul is palpable. On “Somewhere, Somebody”, the Memphis sound is showcased.
Even Burt Bacharach gets a gospel makeover on “Don’t Go Please Stay”, with the assistance of The Grace Episcopal Choir (arranged by Ronstadt). The playful, early rock vibe is evident. Always connected to New Orleans culture, there is a duo of Allen Toussaint pieces. “With You In Mind” feels like a hymnal, but has dynamic piano runs (Don Grolnick). A hypnotic vocal chorus and tenor saxophone accents lend a haunting resonance. Incredibly, Neville raises his vibrato to a pure falsetto. Neville Brothers prominence is showcased on the muscular funk-driven “Angola Bound”. With Dr. John on piano, Cyril Neville on conga and a rap by Jason Neville, the buoyant framework punctuates the jam.
Aaron Neville has demonstrated success on duets. He teams with Rita Coolidge (“La Vie Dansante”) and Linda Ronstadt (“Close Your Eyes”) with graceful ease. The title song (written by music legends Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun) is a doo-wop blues fest. Deeply spiritual, Neville explores Bahamian gospel (“I Bid You Goodnight”), assisted by the guitar agility of Ry Cooder. Fittingly, the session closes with a near classical, gripping interpretation of “Ave Marie”. The combination of Neville’s glowing vocals, gospel choir and additional soprano by Rondstadt is nothing short of uplifting.
The musical arrangements on Warm Your Heart are layered with orchestral instrumentation and dense vocal mixes.ORG has found the perfect technical vehicle for this polished auditory conversion in audiophile 45 rpm vinyl. Neville’s stylized vocals and upper-register range are rendered with superb clarity and suppleness. Choir and orchestra do not overpower musicians…they blend fluently.
Side A: Louisiana 1927; Everybody Plays The Fool; It Feels Like Rain
Side B; Somewhere Somebody; Don’t Go, Please Stay; With You In Mind; That’s The Way She Loves
Side C: Angola Bound; Close Your Eyes; La Vie Dansante
Side D: Warm Your Heart; I Bid You Goodnight; Ave Marie