Cyril Neville – Endangered Species: The Essential Recordings
World Order Entertainment
11 songs – 53 minutes
Cyril Neville needs no introduction to most blues fans. The youngest brother in New Orleans’ first family of music, a wonderful singer and percussionist with the Meters, the Neville Brothers, Royal Southern Brotherhood and a host of other bands, his latest album marks the first release by World Order Entertainment, the label started by his son, Omari Neville.
The Essential Recordings is a one-CD distillation of the five-CD retrospective of Endangered Species: The Complete Recordings. The five-CDs collect all the recordings Neville has released over the years for the Endangered Species label under his own name and under various other ensembles he created, such as the Uptown All-Stars. The Essential Recordings cherry-picks 11 highlights from those five albums.
Unfortunately, there is no information provided on the musicians who played on each track, nor where or when each song was recorded. Suffice to say however that the quality of both the recordings and the musicianship is outstanding throughout, with a very consistent sound. The just-the-right-side-of-chaotic of the rollicking blues of “New Orleans Cookin’” is an object lesson to how to build intensity within the context of a song. There is superb bass solo in “Funkaliscious”. “Love Has Got To Win” mixes funk and rock to winning effect.
Three tracks open with spoken-word introductions. On “Second Line Soca”, Neville explains the tradition of second line parades in New Orleans. He acknowledges the lasting impact of the late, great NOLA pianist on “More Professor Longhair”, while “Can’t Stop A Dreamer” opens with a single, powerful sentence from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, before other snippets from the same speech are inserted throughout the track.
Neville is a noted environmental activist, a theme that is often addressed in his lyrics (such as “Ayiti”), as are broader societal issues of equality, tolerance and civil rights (in the likes of “Love Has Got To Win” and “Can’t Stop A Dreamer”). In “Funkaliscious”, he sings: “in spite of all the lies, the truth never dies. Stick to your convictions. Accept no restrictions.” There are loving homages to the music of Big Easy in “More Professor Longhair”, “Second Line Soca” and “Running With The Secondline” (which features Damien Neville).
The bluesy soul ballad “The Road To Unity” is dedicated to the spirits, the families and friends of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and features one of Neville’s best vocal performances in a plea to end unnecessary gun violence.
The beginning of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” highlights the glorious vocals of Gaynielle Neville, Dane Wilson and Yadonna Wise over a simple gospel guitar backing before the full band (and another MLK sample) arrives to take the song in a more soul/R’n’B direction.
All the tracks have that irresistible New Orleans rhythm, even when Neville (as he often does) brings in elements of rock, funk, hip hop, soul or Caribbean music. This is music you can listen to and it is music you can’t help but dance to. Very, very impressive.