Monday, January 19, 2004

Ivan Neville


Compendia Records

Ivan Neville has quite a legacy to uphold. His father, Aaron Neville, and uncles Art, Charles and Cyril have established the standard by which all modern Crescent City musicians are measured with their band the Neville Brothers. Yet the weight of the Neville family tradition hasn’t proved too heavy for second-generation funkster Ivan. The New Orleans multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter has transcended the family name to become a gifted solo artist as well as a sideman for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and Robbie Robertson.

In the ultimate testament to his coming of age, Ivan Neville’s famous friends and family reverse roles and serve as his sidekicks on his new solo effort, “Scrape.” Keith Richards plays his patented bluesy guitar riffs (“Silence Is Better”), Aaron Neville lends his golden voice (“Before It’s Gone” and “With You All Along”), and Miss Raitt contributes raspy vocals (“Before It’s Gone”).

It almost defies belief, but despite the presence of such star power combined with Ivan Neville’s own adroit and diverse song-craft, “Scrape” almost went unheard.

An earlier version of the record was released in 2002 on actor Bruce Willis’ Uptop Records under the title “Saturday Morning Music.” Unfortunately for Mr. Neville, after fewer than 1,000 copies of “Saturday Morning Music” hit stores, Mr. Willis folded the label for undisclosed business reasons.

Compendia Records eventually came to Mr. Neville’s rescue, rereleasing his lost record, which stacks up nicely against his well-received previous solo albums, 1988’s “If My Ancestors Could See Me Now” (SPV) and 1995’s “Thanks” (SPV).

A hearty gumbo of authentic Big Easy funk; danceable R&B; heartfelt ballads; and psychedelic, blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll, “Scrape” has been enhanced with the addition of one live track to the original 13 songs.

Among the standout numbers, the title track pays homage to the Meters, the seminal New Orleans funk outfit led by Mr. Neville’s uncles Art and Cyril during the 1970s. Here, by combining greasy Hammond organ, scratch guitar and second-line beats, Mr. Neville has produced some of the best funk to come out of New Orleans in years. The infectious “Life’s Been Good” and “What You Want From Me” provide memorable second and third helpings.

“The Ugly Truth” and “Ghetto Street” quote lyrics (“Make me wanna holler” and “Mercy, mercy me”) from soul singer Marvin Gaye’s groundbreaking album of socially conscious soul, “What’s Going On.” Digging into his own personal experience, Mr. Neville channels the desperation of drug addiction with the icy, Curtis Mayfield-esqe street-wise soul of “Ode to 5 a.m.” “Wondering when did this all change/from a good time to a night that never ends,” the recovered addict croons. (Mr. Neville, who has been sober more than five years, has won the Musicians’ Assistance Program’s Stevie Ray Vaughan Award for his support of other recovering artists.)

With “Scrape,” Mr. Neville has upheld the high standards of his rich musical heritage — and through his belief in his music and sheer persistence, he has kept a record alive that will be enjoyed for years to come.

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