Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Doo Wop

By Bill Holmes

The third in what is becoming a music review series. Our subject for today is the PBS program Aaron Neville - Doo Wop: My True Story. This is a recording of a live concert at the Brooklyn Bowl, which is a concert venue and bowling alley. The songs, for the most part, were from Aaron's latest album My True Love. As you may have guessed, it's an album and show of Doo Wop songs.

Doo Wop is a style of rhythm & blues music that features harmony. It is often performed a cappella or with minimal backing instruments. It's a little like a more modern, hipper and blacker barbershop quartet style. It is always sung by a group of singers although there can be a lead singer such as Aaron in this show. It started mostly in large cities in the northeast of the US and reached it's greatest popularity in the late 1950's and early 60's. There were many Doo Wop groups in those years, both black and white. It proceeded the British invasion. One of the earliest Doo Wop groups was the Mills Brothers. They had great harmony. During it's peak popularity, groups like The Diamonds, The Crests, The Flamingos and dozens of others dominated the radio and the music charts. The style faded from popularity by the mid 60's as folk, surf and British invasion style music rose to the top. There are still Doo Wop groups around as well as an occasional  Doo Wop style song or two by contemporary artists. PBS has produced a couple of Doo Wop oldies shows over the years. It's great music which emphasizes the voice rather than amps.

Aaron Neville grew up singing Doo Wop with his older brothers Charles and Art in New Orleans. The My True Story album is a trip back to those days in the projects. The Brooklyn Bowl concert and TV show is, for the most part, a live performance of that album. Aaron was accompanied by five back up singers and a six member band. The band consisted of a piano, organ, guitar, stand up base and drums with a bonus of brother Charles Neville on saxaphone and flute. Joan Osborne and Paul Simon also dropped by to sing with Aaron.

Here is the playlist from the show:
  • Little Bitty Pretty One
  • Ting-A-Ling
  • Tears On My Pillow
  • My True Story
  • Money Honey -  with Joan 
  • Ruby Baby - starts out a cappella
  • Don't Go, Please Stay 
  • Hercules
  • Under the Boardwalk
  • Tell It Like It Is 
  • Have Mercy Baby
  • This Magic Moment/True Love medley
  • We Belong Together - with Paul 
  • Work With Me Annie
  • Be My Baby     
There are some great songs on this playlist. Tears On My Pillow is a favorite of mine especially the Little Anthony & The Imperials version. Ruby Baby is a Doo Wop street corner standard. Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters is in the top five Doo Wop songs of all time. There are no duds in this group.
Money Honey, sung with Joan Osborne, was OK but was probably the weakest of the selections. Their voices were not a great blend. We Belong Together with Paul Simon was good. This song is not on the album. Paul is not and never has been a great singer but he does have some experience singing with someone who has a great voice. He knows how to harmonize. Charles Neville contributed a flute break on Be My Baby. I think my favorite selection was Don't Go, Please Stay. It highlights Aaron's angelic voice and brother Charles added a nice sax break. This Magic Moment/True Love medley is another highlight. Aaron does justice to all the songs.

It was a good show. I'll admit, I am a huge Aaron Neville and Neville Brothers fan all the way back to The Wild Tchoupitoulas days. I've seen The Neville Brothers live in New Orleans at Tipitina's (the original @ Napoleon & Tchoupitoulas). I own over 20 albums by various members and combinations of the Neville family and had even more at one time. So you see, I may be a little prejudiced in my review of this program. Never the less, if you are a Doo Wop and/or Aaron Neville fan, My True Story is a worthwhile album and show. Aaron is touring in support of this album. You can check Aaron's website to see if he's going to be in your town. No D/FW dates yet. The PBS program will be rebroadcast in the D/FW area (KERA, 13) on Friday, 3/15 @ 10:30 PM. It's a pledge program, so as usual, I highly recommend recording it so you can fast forward through the pledge segments.

I don't have any new concerts or music shows on the DVR so maybe the reviews will stop for awhile. We've pretty much covered all the popular music genres of the 1960's with Doo Wop, Hootenanny and Hullabaloo. I'm sure I'll think of something else to expound or rant about soon.


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