Aaron Neville

You'll get little argument against the coronation of Aaron Neville as one of the smoothest singers to come out of New Orleans. It was evident from his first singles on the Minit label in the early '60s (including 1960's sinister yet sweetly-sung "Over You," his first R&B top 40 hit), carrying on through his 1966 breakthrough hit "Tell It Like It Is" and further into the '70s with the serpentine funk of "Hercules," a piece of R&B social commentary worthy of Gaye and Mayfield. Inexplicably, the strength of this material -- at its best, easily comparable to the soul gold standard of Sam Cooke -- didn't lead to chart success aside from "Tell It Like It Is", and Aaron had to wait until the 1980s and a series of duets with Linda Ronstadt to receive his due in the spotlight. Since then, Neville's seen success in gospel, country and jazz crossover, and he's also been rightfully grandfathered into a role as a New Orleans soul elder statesman, best exhibited on 2006's standards-packed Bring It on Home: the Soul Classics.
Sun., Dec. 7, 6 p.m., 2008

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