Neville to mix holiday cheer with doo-wop

R&B singer to interject classic tunes of his youth during Christmas Show
2012-12-06T00:00:00Z Neville to mix holiday cheer with doo-wopGerald M. Gay Ggay@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
December 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Aaron Neville's Christmas Show, at the Rialto Theatre Tuesday, will be just as much about the singer sharing a piece of his past as the spreading of holiday cheer.

The veteran R&B vocalist, known for his soulful solo work and his years performing as part of the New Orleans-born Neville Brothers, has a set list planned that includes interpretations of some of the classic doo-wop tunes from his youth.

The songs will be sprinkled in with traditional holiday fare to promote the 71-year-old's upcoming album, "My True Story," a recording of doo-wop standards, due out in January on Blue Note Records.

"It's gospel and doo-wop that made me who I am today," Neville said in a phone interview last month from New York City. "That music was always magic to me."

Neville, who performed a holiday show last year in Tucson, is quick to claim doo-wop as a musical style that influenced his early career path.

Artists on the radio when he was coming up, such as Shep & The Limelites, Jerry Butler and Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters were like Gods to him.

Neville's own style has traditionally leaned more toward soul over the years, starting with his 1965 breakout hit "Tell It Like It Is."

But he has always found ways to infuse doo-wop into his repertoire.

In 1986, Neville released "Orchid in the Storm," which featured covers of doo-wop songs such as The Penguins' "Earth Angel" and "For Your Precious Love."

"My True Story" follows in the same vein, with recognizable doo-wop hits, including "Under the Boardwalk," "Tears on My Pillow" and "Money Honey" from The Drifters.

"This album is something that has been in my head for many years," Neville said.

Providing support behind the scenes for the release was a powerhouse team made up of producer and Blue Note president Don Was and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who came onboard because of his own fondness for doo-wop.

Together, the trio came up with what Neville considers the perfect 12 songs for the release, though the decision about what stayed and what was cut from the album wasn't always easy.

A total of 23 songs were recorded, many at Neville's request.

"I was like a kid in a candy store," Neville said. "I kept bringing up more songs."

Neville said Was and Richards were extremely easy to work with.

"This was the first time I've had so much input on an album," he added. "Usually, the producers take over, but this was an open thing for me."

Richards also provided some of his own guitar work, sharing the load with guitarist Greg Leisz, organist Benmont Tench, drummer George G. Receli and bassist Tony Scherr.

"Keith is the most down to Earth guy I've ever met," Neville said. "He is just a regular dude. He is a fun guy, but serious in the studio. It was fun watching him and Greg going back and forth with each other, respecting each other's space."

Neville said the easygoing nature of the session helped the process.

"When you listen, you can hear the musicians smiling on the record," Neville said. "They were smiling through the whole thing."

If you go

• What: Aaron Neville Christmas Show.

• When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.

• Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

• Tickets: $43-$52 through the Rialto box office, 740-1000.

• Info: rialtotheatre.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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