Aaron Neville: My True Story

Aaron Neville
My True Story
(Blue Note)
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

It’s no musical stretch for Aaron Neville to attach his classic, sweetly soaring tenor voice to a batch of ’60s pop standards, the majority in the doo-wop vein. After all, his own “Tell It Like It Is” remains a classic of the era. Bringing in fellow fan Keith Richards to co-produce (and add some unusually laid back guitar) along with Don Was and a crack batch of players helps make these versions sizzle with a contagious energy they share with the originals. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of this fertile musical period will recognize gems such as Dion’s “Ruby Baby,” the Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk,” and Hank Ballad’s “Work With Me Annie,” and if there is any criticism of the album it’s that perhaps Neville and the producers could have dug a little deeper for their material. But these rootsy performances with arrangements true to the ones that set hearts swooning and feet dancing four decades ago, are revived with such obvious love, respect and enthusiasm that hearing them again is unexpectedly exhilarating. A few less popular selections such as the Clovers’ “Ting a Ling” and the Jive Five’s title track– whose beautiful, silky but far from slick rendition will raise the hairs on the back of your neck—might be revelations for those unfamiliar with the style. If Richards’ participation helps revitalize these sounds and sends newcomers searching out the first versions well, that’s just a bonus to a thrilling project that combines Neville’s stunning voice with classic melodies whose sentiments remain timeless.