By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
Born and raised in New Orleans' Third Ward, the Nevilles are the spiritual inheritors of New Orleans' rich musical history. Along with the Marsalis clan, the four Neville brothers are the reigning royalty of Crescent City music. The Neville Brothers band began with the Meters, one of the most underrated but influential groups in all of popular music. Formed by Art Neville in 1967, the Meters included guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter and drummer Ziggy Modeliste. Art's brothers Aaron and Charles occasionally sang with the mostly instrumental group.
The best Meters records are Rejuvenation and Cissy Strut, both from 1975. Although those albums never cracked the charts, their influence spread like quicksilver. The Meters' albums-all of which are now collector's items-are funk's mother lode. Few outside George Clinton have had the effect the Meters had on funk music, with their tight and innovative rhythm section.
Without the Meters to show the way, there would never have been a Sly Stone, an Earth, Wind & Fire or a Rick James. Lately, Meters records have proved fertile ground for hip-hop and dance-track sampling.
In 1976, disappointed by continuing poor sales figures, the Meters hung it up. In recent years, the band has staged several reunions and, according to Aaron, a new Meters record may be in the works." In 1976, just before the Meters' demise, Aaron and Charles Neville rejoined the band to record with Neville cousins Amos and George Landry. The Landrys were part of the Wild Tchoupitoulas, the feather- and jewel-encrusted black Indian tribe" that is such a cherished part of Mardi Gras. The ensuing album Wild Tchoupitoulas was an immediate success. Members of the Meters made up the rhythm section, and the Nevilles won a recording contract with Capitol Records because of the disc. In 1978, the Neville Brothers' self-titled debut flopped and Capitol dropped the band. Thereafter, the Nevilles began their odyssey from record label to record label, jumping with each new album. Three years after their Capitol debut, they recorded Fiyo on the Bayou for A&M. Now regarded by many as the best Neville Brothers album, Fiyo was also a commercial flop. Turning to hometown blues label Blacktop in 1984 for their first live record, Neville-ization, the brothers moved on to EMI in 1987 for Uptown and Rhino in 1988 for the aptly titled two-volume summation Treacherous.
Despite perpetual good press and a small but fanatical following, the Neville Brothers was still a relatively unknown group when the Daniel Lanois-produced Yellow Moon was released in 1989 on A&M. A live act whose spontaneity is difficult, if not impossible, to capture in a studio, the band has made more than a few stiff records. Yellow Moon, however, is the most accurate snapshot so far of what the Nevilles do. But as good as Yellow Moon is, it hints that there is a blockbuster Neville Brothers album yet to be recorded.
That blockbuster should bring the brothers the recognition they deserve. Judging by their past recordings, it will almost certainly contain, along with their usual memorable originals, some surprising covers. How about a Neville-ized Rhapsody in Blue"?
FATE AND LOATHING IN BULLHEAD CITY LIFE'... v1-22-92