**** out of *****
"Be Your Man" kicks off the disk like a funky blaxploitation soundtrack, rolling out with scratchy guitars, liquid bass and horn blasts all cutting deep while Neville croons gloriously on top with vigor and power. The track makes a statement and the rest of the disk follows. Other greasy numbers include the Curtis Mayfield inspired "Make Your Momma Cry" and the crunchy hard funk of "Ain't Gonna Judge You" the gets down in style. The Daptone Horns deliver the goods on all of those and also add flavor to the waltzing "All Of The Above" which delicately balances Neville's falsetto with a southern march style.
Neville has always loved to let his voice lead and the ballads here give him that opportunity. "Heaven" works delicately with an organ for support, "I Wanna Love You" breaks it down into the simplest of slow dance terms while "Sarah Ann" is a doo-wop inspired number directed to his wife. From interviews Neville has mentioned another ballad, "Orchid In The Storm" was also for his wife but that tracks light grooves come dangerously close to the cheesiness he can sometimes fall into.
The focal point of the album is "Stompin' Ground" a personal ode to the city that crafted who Neville is as an artist and more importantly a person, New Orleans. With direct shout out's to players from his past over a Crescent City beat Neville recalls the characters of days gone by and a sound that still moves any listeners with ears and hips. A touching and personal ode, but one that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has been to the gem of a town.
Back in 2012 a young popular producer (and rocker) Dan Auerbach got some of the best songs and performances out of Dr John for Locked Down. That album ranks as the one of the top three the artist has ever done. A direct parallel can be drawn to producer and contributor Eric Krasno for getting the best quality out of an aging Neville on Apache. The closing "Fragile World" even recalls Dr John's spoken word style and fear he expressed on Locked Down, linking things even more vividly while also including lyrics from Marvin Gaye to bring the soul world in line as well.
Krasno deserves lots of credit as do all the players and while Aaron Neville has always been respected by an older set of fans, hopefully Apache will open him up to a new generation of listeners.
Super impressed by this album, Krasno has given Neville some grit and that adds a depth to the artists catalog that had been lacking in all of his solo releases. A real winner, support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below: