After five decades of consistent hit-making, Neville has, in the words of one Rolling Stone writer, "reached a highpoint in a career marked by artistic superlatives. Bring It On Home - The Soul Classics is an album for the ages and Neville's most remarkable work to date." "These classic songs," says Aaron, "have been pumping blood to my heart from the first second they heard them. They've been a part of my life. Singing them, especially in the aftermath of Katrina, was a deeply spiritual experience. They helped me get through. They gave me hope. And for me, music has always been about hope."
Approach Aaron Neville's Bring it on Home ... the Soul Classics with anything but an open heart and you've missed the point. This is a serious CD, at once mournful, humble, and joyous, with no shortage of moments that recall the terribleness of Hurricane Katrina. One way of processing it is as a cataloging of classic songs that helped Neville's fellow New Orleanians soldier through: opener "Rainy Night in Georgia" with jazzman Chris Botti wrings beauty from soaking-wet despair, "Stand By Me" turns its heel on pleading in favor of promise-making, and "People Get Ready," with David Sanborn and brother Art, is a chill-sending reminder of how unity and perseverance can trump tragedy. Viewed from another lens, Soul Classics is Neville's attempt at climbing aboard the late-career, classic-covers bandwagon while weaving his bayou-soul heritage into the picture. The trouble with that theory, though, is that it feels like so much more. His voice flutters alongside Mavis Staple's on "Respect Yourself" with completely uncontrived tenderness, and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" becomes a meditation on stillness and ease that befits a boulder-sized lump in the throat. A tossed-together concept album this is not; a reflection of a soul man gifted with the ability to spin epic, unyielding sorrow into grace is more like it. --Tammy La Gorce