Mr. Aaron Neville
“Listen – You Can Give But You Can’t Take MP3″ “Listen – Where Is My Baby MP3″
This has been a busy week. Three days, three posts and one of them a mix. I’m feeling prolific (ish).
I hope everyone’s digging the ‘Butter Your Popcorn’ mix. It’s getting downloaded like crazy-go-nuts, which is a good thing. We get a lot of international traffic, and it makes me happy to know that somewhere out there, in Schizo-slovenia or some such, some funk deprived soul is getting his or her groove on to the sounds of the James Brown band. The thought that someone at this moment may be assaulting the interweb – trying to find out what a “Maceo” is – is kind of cool.
Today’s selection is one of those lucky finds, a gift from the unknowable forces of the cosmos. Now don’t get any ideas about this being a particularly rare side (I don’t think it is). Nor was it costly, arriving in my greedy little hands for less than 20 US dollars.
However – and this is a very important however – this is a record of extremely high quality, and a New Orleans side that was previously unknown to moi, so I bring it to you in the spirit of spreading the good word, as it were.
No too long ago, I was perusing the sales list of a pal of mine, who can usually be relied upon to offer up some very interesting records for sale. Not the kind of stuff that the big money vultures are prowling the skies of Vinyl-topia looking for, but the kind of overlooked – though excellent – sides that any real music fan loves to acquire, i.e. the kind of records that ought to be worth a lot of dough, but are consigned to cheapness due either to their own abundance, or the fact that they have yet to be discovered by the collectorati.
Aaron Neville, is known to most as the velvet lunged deliverer of one of the great love ballads of the 60’s, that being ‘Tell it Like it Is’. If you don’t know that, you have surely seen him as a ubiquitous ambassador for the sounds of New Orleans and via his late period hit records with the likes of Linda Ronstadt. If a sweeter voice has ever erupted from a more incongruously gruff exterior, I have yet to hear it.
Despite the fact that ‘Tell it Like it Is’ was a big hit, Neville really didn’t get to record a whole lot during the latter part of the 60’s. His three Parlo 45s include a couple of hidden gems, including ‘Why Worry’ (the flip side of ‘Tell it…”) and the smooth soul of ‘A Hard Nut To Crack’. His one 45 for Safari (from 1968) , ‘Ape Man’ leans a bit into novelty territory, but it’s still worth a listen.
Neville would record three 45s for the Bell label in 1969, and the two tunes you hear today appeared as the A and B sides of the first one. As I said before, I picked this one up without having heard it before, and when I finally dropped the needle on the record I couldn’t have been more pleased.
The top side, ‘You Can Give But You Can’t Take’ opens with a minor drum break and segues into a relaxed, funky vibe. The sound of the backing band – once again – suggests the presence of the Meters (especially likely since Aaron’s brother Art was the organist for that band), and there’s some very nice swampy guitar and soulful organ throughout the cut. I especially like the last part of the chorus, where things slow down and Aaron sings: “I’m glad you found out like I knew you would, that a sip of your own medicine it don’t taste so good”. It’s an especially nice example of Southern soul at its best.
The real prize here – at least to my ears – is the ballad on the flip, ‘Where Is My Baby’. Opening with a piano flourish, the verse has a sweet sound, delivered over a slow, waltz-like tempo (not unlike ‘Tell it Like it Is’). While the sound/feel of the verse may fall under the category of standard – though well constructed – soul ballad boilerplate, the chorus is a revelation. Displaying yet another fine example of the kind of high quality songwriting that Allen Toussaint could apparently produce in his sleep, the chords go off in an unusual, churchy direction, with the piano, strings, female backing singers and Neville himself joining together to moving effect. ‘Where Is My Baby’ is one of those records you just want to listen to over and over again, soaking up the vibe. Overall it’s one of Aaron Neville’s finest records, and yet another fine example of Toussaint-iana that I can put aside in case I ever lose my mind and forget what a musical giant the man is.