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Review: Cyril Neville, The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007

The Essential Cyril Neville showcases some of the youngest Neville brother's best distillations of all things New Orleans.

Cyril Neville
The Essential Cyril Neville 1994-2007
[M.C. Records (2010)]

The youngest of the Neville Brothers, Cyril Neville, 62, has long provided some of the funkiest moments to ever come out of New Orleans. His Caribbean-rooted conga playing and soulful vocals have produced some of the most explosive peaks of concerts and recordings by the Meters, the Neville Brothers, Galactic, Tribe 13, and the Voice of the Wetlands. Though his solo albums up through 2007 were self-released, with limited distribution, they were as spiritually lifting and soulfully inspiring as his more visible work. Bringing together tracks from five albums released between 1994 and 2007, The Essential Cyril Neville brims with deeply funky music. The sounds of New Orleans echo in a tribute to Professor Longhair (“Tipitina”), a Mardi Gras Indian anthem (“Indians Got That Fire”), and a joyous pop tune (“New Orleans Cooking”). With the song’s composer, Allen Toussaint (who wrote it under the pseudonym “Naomi Neville”), on piano, he turns Benny Spellman’s 1962 hit, “Fortune Teller,” into a slow, heartfelt blues that out-emotes the Rolling Stones’ mid-’60s recording.

But Crescent City traditions are just one slice of Neville’s vision. Joined by Taj Mahal on harmonica, he explores musical roots in the previously unreleased opening track (“The Blues Is Here To Stay”), reminding us that without people like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, “the Beatles and the Stones would have stayed home.” He celebrates the music and rhythms of the Caribbean with a tribute to Haiti (“Ayiti”). Besides applying a rock-hard edge to Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” Neville  joins with a large choir to transform Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” into a soul-emitting gospel experience. He even touches on hip-hop and rap on the Marvin Gaye-like “Projects,” and the horn-driven closing tune, “Funkaliscious,” would make Sly Stone envious. Guests include the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Big Chief Iron Horse, and a half dozen Nevilles. But it’s Cyril Neville’s own spirited performance that makes this CD essential.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

© 2010 DriftwoodMagazine.com, All rights reserved.

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