When classic pop and rock artists make late-career covers albums of their favorite coming-of-age songs, they are often viewed as an easy, lazy way to pad their catalogs. Sometimes these collections are enjoyable, but often they’re of more interest to the artist than their fans.
What sets this collection of doo-wop and early rock era tunes apart from the jaded pack is Neville’s peerless voice and crystal clear passion for the material.
That exhilaration pervades “My True Story.” Under the direction of heavy-hitting co-producers (Blue Note president Don Was and Rolling Stone Keith Richards, who also contributes guitar) and backed by an airtight band of all-stars including Aaron’s brother Art on Hammond organ, guitarist Greg Leisz, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, and “Saturday Night Live” saxophonist Lenny Pickett, Neville cuts loose.
Everything from the deep harmonies on hum-alicious “Little Bitty Pretty One” (supplied there and elsewhere by some doo-wop legends) to the zippy, spare arrangements (with special kudos to Pickett’s slinky sax) swings.
Yes, few of these songs were begging for improvement or updating, but listening to Neville sing “Under the Boardwalk” or “Tears on My Pillow” — both perfect for his hitching warble — is like being cuddled by a cloud. (Out Tuesday)
Essential “Tears on My Pillow’’