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More sweet soul sounds of the ‘Neville magic’

21st January 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Cyril Neville
Magic Honey

(Ruf Records)

Cyril Neville nails the soul blues hard on this his finest, most comprehensive album as a solo artist. From the first measure on the opening cut, the self-penned “Magic Honey,” Cyril is driving the band that perfectly suits his at once aggressive and in-the-groove vocal style. These guys – drummer “Mean” Willie Green, guitarist Cranston Clements, keyboardist Norman Caesar and bassist Carl Dufrene – know Neville well and it shows.

Cyril is, of course, best-known as a member of the Neville Brothers band and the Meters and beyond leading his own ensembles, he is presently working with the collaborative group the Royal Southern Brotherhood. On Magic Honey, he brings all of his huge talents and interests that he’s displayed throughout the years – his passionate vocals, his strong rhythmic sense, his penchant for socially conscious lyrics – and tightens them up into an extremely user-friendly package. It finger pops and swings.Cyril-Nveille-Magic-Honey-0

Family and friends are always a part of the show with Cyril and he brings in both Allen Toussaint on piano and Dr. John on organ for a rather obscure Dr. John composition “Swamp Funk.” It is so totally New Orleans in every way from the sashaying rhythm, piano trills, laid-back delivery and lyrics that it brings a smile on every listen. It’s hard to resist lines like, “Swamp funk came right out of the swamp, diddy wah diddy took it to the city…”

A little Latin tinge, a flavor for which New Orleans is known, shows up in the cha cha beat of “Another Man,” a song co-written by Cyril and his wife Gaynelle. She and their son, Omari Neville also provide solid backup vocals throughout the album. Stylistically the song is reminiscent of Robert Cray’s modern yet rooted approach to the blues. The always tasty Clements offers up a guitar solo that intricately blazes while ultimately remaining cool and relaxed.

The era changes when guests David Z, who also produced the album, and Mike Zito come in on guitars. Things get more electrified and rockish and it’s interesting to hear how drummer Green adjusts from groove to punch.

After an album full of blues, Cyril takes it out with a reggae number, another original, “Slow Motion.” As he returns to the swaying style with which he’s long been associated, it’s almost as if he’s signing the album, “ With Love from Cyril.”

Music Under Siege – Again
A Commentary

Just in time for the holidays, on December 19, 2013, the Thursday before Christmas, the New Orleans City Council introduced a proposal for a new, very restrictive noise ordinance that drastically lowers the decibel levels allowed for live music. The measure also calls for measuring the sound not from the source of a complaint but from where the sound is emanating. It has yet to be voted on due, in part, to an outcry from opponents complaining that the public wasn’t given the opportunity or time to be heard. A special meeting with the Housing and Human Needs Committee schedule for last Friday was canceled at the last moment. Some speculate that the reason for the delay was, considering the controversial nature of the ordinance, that the issue was too much of a political hot potato to undertake with the primary elections for City Council and Mayor just weeks away.

It seems that in recent memory at least, and undoubtedly long before that, every so often the City decides it is time to attack the music. Clubs have been closed, permits to present live music refused, brass band members taken into police custody, and in-store performances threatened. In 1991, the issue was banning musicians from playing in Jackson Square. Pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis asked that a letter addressing the subject be read at a City Council meeting. His words ring as true today as they did more than 20 years ago. The following is an excerpt from that letter.

“At a time when New Orleans seems to be attempting to correct the damage of the past when the city ignored the music that would make it famous, forces are at work to eliminate an avenue of cultural expression that has spawned the likes of the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth brass bands. Street musicians, which is not necessarily a complimentary description, are now and have always been an indigenous cultural resource that has continued to blossom like nature’s gifts to the rain forest. Now, not unlike the rain forest, forces are at work to destroy a natural resource in the cultural fabric of the Crescent City.

Why must we continually be reminded of the phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? With all the major problems that go begging for solutions (unemployment, City budget deficits, public school deficits, crime, etc.) why are we preoccupied with stifling a major complement to our tourist industry?”

The noise ordinance was largely adopted from a proposal from the Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents and Associates (NCPORA), a well-heeled group that has long been a proponent for restrictive live music through various measures. For unknown reasons, the Council simply ignored a study by David Woolworth of Oxford Acoustics that was commissioned by Councilwoman Kristin Gieleson Palmer.

With less political power and money, the music community, including artists who could be hit squarely in the pocket if the measure should pass, and the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, which was formed in 2012, fight on.

The City of New Orleans talks the talk when it comes to our music; using it when convenient to lure visitors, abusing it when it comes to real life issues of those who keep the precious tradition alive.

This article originally published in the January 20, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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