Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville

Orchid in the Storm

Hyena

Originally released as an EP in 1983, Aaron Neville’s Orchid in the Storm is now the latest reissue on Joel Dorn’s Hyena Records.

One of the most distinctive soul singers around, both with his brothers and on his own, Neville’s voice often reminds me of an electric organ, smoothly played and beautifully modulated. One or two of his hit songs like “Don’t Take Away My Heaven” even managed to make pop radio worth listening to for five minutes in the nineties.

And that was with a Diane Warren song and mainstream production, yet. Here, he pays tribute to the sound of the R&B/doo-wop groups of his youth like The Drifters and The Penguins: Strings, beautiful vocals and classic songs all combining to make something joyful and heartfelt, like the first time a beautiful girl lets you kiss her, on the dance floor or off. Exquisitely sung, sometimes multi-tracked vocal arrangements comparable to Marvin Gaye or Kirsty MacColl (no small praise coming from me) set a romantic and intimate tone that is irresistible.

In order to make the EP more of an LP, Dorn and Neville have added four bonus tracks that originally appeared on compilation albums and such. Numbers like the “Mickey Mouse March” from Hal Willner’s Disney album (damn, I need to have that replaced on CD) fit perfectly. But even with these extras, this is a short CD — a little over half an hour long. I was left wanting more, hoping that if this re-release is successful Neville and Dorn will reunite for a sequel.

Oddly, one of those bonus tracks comes closest, to my ears, to the purest ideal of the collection: “Save the Last Dance For Me,” from a 1995 tribute to the late songwriter Doc Pomus, demands to be listened to. Even when you are just trying to skim through tracks looking for things to say about them, you find yourself stopping to let this one play on. Trust me.

The law of averages being what it is, someday Hyena is going to send me something that doesn’t gladden my heart and make me feel like a record company flack. Unless it goes under before it has a chance to disappoint me, like Dorn’s previous Label M.

But that day has not yet come (knock on wood), and until it does, what can I say? Another winner from Joel Dorn.

Hyena Records: http://www.hyenarecords.com

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