At 75 years of age New Orleanian, Aaron Neville, has experienced the kind of career longevity that most can only dream of, singing and producing music for the past 56 years. Apache is the latest offering from Neville, bringing his studio album count up to 27 – 17 solo records and 10 with his brothers in the aptly named, The Neville Brothers – and is only the second time in his extensive career that he has co-written an entire album’s worth of material.
Throughout Apache, Neville deftly draws upon his experience performing funk, soul, and R&B, deploying his distinctive voice to great effect. Anyone unfamiliar with Neville’s work – as I was – will probably be surprised by the timbre of his voice, which has a soft and delicate quality – sitting at the higher end of the register – while still maintaining a warmth and masculine clarity for a smooth, charming, delivery. Opening track, Be Your Man, compels the listener to strut and swagger with its insistent funk hook, which complements and contrasts with the soul of songs like Orchid in the Storm and Make Your Momma Cry.
Stompin Ground is Apache’s longest track, at nearly six minutes, but the ode to New Orleans maintains interest throughout thanks to Neville’s vocal delivery, and the talent of his backing band who ensure the song’s vibe is never lost. The punchy rhythm and solid groove of Ain’t Gonna Judge You works well to punctuate Neville’s vocals and lyrics, resulting in a track that demands attention. Despite the strength of Neville’s vocal performance elsewhere, the gospel infused Heaven feels weak, patchy, and over extended, while All Of The Above features an interesting tremolo when the chorus is sung – its neither good nor bad, but it is definitely different.
With Apache Neville has built upon his decades of experience and, for the most part, delivered an immensely enjoyable record, however Apache is a bit patchy in its energy and quality. Luckily the missteps are few, never fatal, and offset by some incredibly strong work.