A crooner meets a belter

December 11, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

If there's one thing Aaron Neville has learned over the years, it's that there's nothing more important for a singer than having the song.

"It's got to be a marriage thing, you know?" he says. "You bring something to the song, and the song brings something to you."

Neville should know. He has been making records for 37 years now, both on his own and as a member of the Neville Brothers. He topped the R&B charts in 1966 with "Tell It Like It Is," and 23 years later went to No. 2 on the pop charts with Linda Ronstadt on "Don't Know Much." Obviously, the man knows a thing or two about singing.

Still, his approach to making music is simplicity itself. "You've got to be able to feel the song, and know how to deliver it to make whoever listens to it feel the same thing you're feeling on it," he says.

Beyond that, Neville doesn't really give the process much thought. He certainly doesn't worry about keeping up with the trends, or maintaining his image in the marketplace. "I just let the song bring me to wherever it's going to take me, instead of trying to make it sound like the last one," he says.

Maybe that's why Neville's newest album, "To Make Me Who I Am," covers such a wide range of musical territory. "It was all good songs," he says. "I co-wrote four songs, and put music to 'Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue,' which was a poem I read when I was in Catholic grade school."

In addition to great songs, Neville had good company on the album. "I worked with Babyface, and Tony Rich," he says. "Tony produced a couple of songs.

"He produced me and Linda [Ronstadt] doing 'First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.' That was a thing I had done with Roberta Flack a while back, on tour last year. We were supposed to do it [for the album], but there were scheduling problems. We had to hurry up and get the album finished at a certain date, and Linda was doing this other song, 'Please Remember Me,' anyway. So we just had to go ahead, and Linda was perfect for it."

Neville wasn't surprised that he and Ronstadt blended so perfectly on the song. "Me and Linda, we're like kin," he says. "We've sung together a bunch of times. I've got songs on her VTC albums, she's got songs on my albums. I told her, sometimes I think we've sung together in a different life."

Part of what makes that blend of voices so distinctive is that Ronstadt doesn't sing with Neville the way she does by herself. "She's kind of a belter," he says. "But when she sings with me, she comes into a tender sound. Because I have a soft voice; I'm not a belter. She calls me a crooner. So it works perfectly. Sometimes, you can't tell our voices apart."

Aaron Neville Band

When: Sunday, 9 p.m. (Doors open at 8 p.m.)

Where: Bohager's, 515 S. Eden St.

Tickets: $23.50

Call: 410-563-7220 for information, 410-481-7328 for tickets

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Aaron Neville's new release, "To Make Me Who I Am," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6196.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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