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A speciality release that almost hits

Aaron Neville - Bring It On Home...The Soul Classics
(Burgundy Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 11, 2006
Aaron Neville

Review by Andy Argyrakis

The string of specialty releases continues in Aaron Neville's catalogue thanks to September's Bring It On Home...The Soul Classics, which comes on the heels of various Christmas and gospel projects. Of course, the New Orleans native has remained incredibly active with the Neville Brothers in recent years, including a virtually endless tour following Hurricane Katrina, and it's clear he'll continue balancing both that world and his solo career. Even so, the living legend still gets a little help from his friends and family on this star studded affair, which finds the crooner interpreting classics by the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Ben E. King, Al Green and Sam Cooke.

While many old timers are turning in similar outings these days (including Rod Stewart's forthcoming rock and roll covers disc, Michael McDonald attempting Motown and Barry Manilow's salute to the 1950s and 60s) there's no other voice that comes anywhere close to Neville and that in and of itself makes this offering unique. His rich and glorious tones are smooth as silk come Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and Cooke's "You Send Me," while a slightly re-tweaked version of "When a Man Loves a Woman" is enough to put Michael Bolton's stab to shame. Special guest highlights include Mavis Staples on a robust remake of The Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself," along with David Sanborn and Art Neville on the spiritually slanted "People Get Ready." A duet with Chaka Khan on Green's "Let's Stay Together" is the album's shining moment, taking on a completely different chilled out twist compared to the original or Tina Turner's equally viable version from the 80s.

Despite the constant crests throughout the thirteen tracks and Neville's flawless vocal presentations, one could find fault in the set list and the seemingly predictable nature of these choices. Countless adult contemporary and R&B artists have covered this batch time and time again making his palette seem like a "paint by the numbers" trip through a dusties jukebox. Plus die-hards are likely to already have a rendition of "A Change Is Gonna Come" on previous Neville projects in a very similar arrangement. Had the star dug a bit deeper into his favorite songwriters' notebooks or even considered a few more obscure artists, the otherwise applauded effort would've been exceptional.

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