February 2002

Aaron Neville - Devotion
Silverline/Immergent 86028-9
Released: 2000

by Jeff Fritz

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality *****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on DVD-A]Devotion is a mixture of classic gospel and soul-injected, spiritually invigorating, New Orleans blues. I have always liked the late-night ballads Aaron Neville has been popularly known for, but his style is even more tailored for deep-rooted music of faith. Couple this with some truly original covers and you have a compilation to play over and over.

My favorites here include the subtle "Morning Has Broken" and the duet he performs with Ivan Neville on Paul Simon’s "Bridge Over Troubled Water." There’s plenty of tearful and inspirational music making on Devotion, which offers something for almost every listener. "Jesus Loves Me" is immediately followed by "Let it Be," which takes on even more meaning as the years pass. The connection between these two tracks is strikingly relevant, and readily apparent, and most assuredly not arranged this way by accident.

The vocals are full-bodied and clear, supported with subtle female backing vocals and underscored with heft and weight from the organ and the bass. The surround channels are best used on "Morning Has Broken" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," although a bit overdone on "Mary Don’t You Weep." Bring down the rear speakers a few decibels, though, and you can restore even the more gimmicky tracks to a more listenable balance.

This well-produced DVD-A disc includes Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, which will play on any DVD player, as well as a six-channel discrete 96kHz/24-bit DVD-A track that is hands-down superior to the DVD-V–enabled alternative. There is some visual content for those of you so inclined, but you will likely just close your eyes and become entranced in the warmth and feeling in the music. You better believe I will listen to Devotion year around, but I'll find it especially comforting on long winter nights with a fire in the hearth.