Art. Charles. Aaron. Cyril. Four powerfully unique personalities, the Neville Brothers thrive on an explosive fusion of diversity and unity. Valence Street brings them home to the heart of their musical universe. Valence is the street in Uptown New Orleans where they grew up. Valence Street is their spiritual center - their mother, their father, their uncle Jolly, the fabled Mardi Gras Wild Tchoupitoulas Indian Chief.
Valence Street, the brothers' debut release for Columbia, is a sweeping landscape of their current musical modes while, at the same time, a reflection of their fabulously rich musical past.
As the oldest, Art was the first to make his mark. Back in the fifties, at the very birth of the R&B/rock era, he pioneered the new sound with seminal hits like "Mardi Gras Mambo," "Cha Dooky-Do" and "All These Things." As founding father and mastermind of the Meters - the classic soul syncopates of the sixties and seventies - he earned the title Poppa Funk. Today he remains among the most revered keyboardists and vocalists on the contemporary scene.
In more ways than one, Charles Neville was instrumental in that take-over. It was in 1976 when Charles heeded the call from Uncle Jolly to join his siblings and help create The Wild Tchoupitoulas, the sessions that, for the first time, united the brothers on record. They've been together ever since, not simply winning
Grammy's and accolades for landmark achievements like Fiyo on the Bayou (1981) and Yellow Moon (1989), but creating a lasting body of work cultivated from the fertile fields of New Orleans. A saxophonist of soaring imagination and masterful technique, Charles contributed three compositions to Valence Street.
Aaron Neville's voice is the most recognized in a family of distinct voices. His voice floats and flutters, a miracle of sweetness and light. Ever since his immortal smash from 1967, "Tell It Like It Is," fans and connoisseurs as one of the planet's premier singers have viewed Aaron. Steeped in the glories of gospel and the romanticism of doo-wop, Aaron can sing anything. His duets with Linda Ronstadt resulted in major hits and Grammy's, "Don't Know Much" (1989) and "All My Life" (1990) - and his solo albums, from "Warm My Heart" (1990) to "To Make Me Who I Am" (1997) - have established him as a major pop star. His musical and emotional allegiance, however, remains with his brothers.
"A Little Piece of Heaven," Valence Street's first single, is its own kind of blessing, the sound of Aaron's celestial tenor becalming a world caught up in frenzy and fear. In similar ways, his subtle interpretations of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" and the Cate Brothers' "Give Me A Reason."
Cyril Neville is a man of deep soul and soul singer of impassioned originality. Beyond his vocal prowess, he is a superb percussionist, as well as an accomplished producer and composer. As lead singer for the
Meters in the seventies, he established his own persona. Today, his Uptown All-Stars, with their roots-reggae attitude, is a cutting-edge force in modern rhythm and blues. In working with his brothers, he has demonstrated versatility, not only as a dynamic front man for live performances, but a studio wizard as well.
Recalling the origin of 'Mona Lisa,' the Nevilles' seamless collaboration with Wyclef Jean and the hip-hop high point of Valence Street, Cyril's voice returns to full volume and animated enthusiasm. The fact that Wyclef chose the brothers for what he calls his first love song is an indication of the Nevilles' tremendous reach - back to the past and forward to the future. The seductive blending of voices; the grind of a slow groove that, like a mantra, clears the mind and warms the heart; the synthesis of so much sensuous sound underlines this group's undeniable greatness: What began long ago on Valence Street is still alive today, a vital and inspired spirit, a musical life force that goes on and on, now and forever.