With the 2003 EMI Gospel release 'Believe,' Neville further explores the depth of his spiritual inspiration, imprinting his unique vocal stamp on "Amazing Grace," "Ave Maria," "Oh Happy Day," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and others. He also shines new light on the well-known secular songs "If I Had a Hammer," and Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," from Dylan's Gospel-tinged album 'Slow Train Coming.'
"I had these songs in my head long before I recorded 'Devotion,' and there are still more to do," says Neville, in a tone befitting a man on a mission.
Not that making 'Believe' was an arduous task for the four-time Grammy winner. Like 'Devotion' before it, 'Believe' is a record Neville has always wanted to make, allowing him to pay homage to his all-time favorite songs and give voice to the timeless melodies that have been ingrained within him for decades.
These songs evoked an emotional response from Neville from a young age. "I remember being in church, and seeing everyone's hands raised in the air as they sung together," he says. "It got me to where I almost wanted to cry."
To capture that feeling, Neville worked with producer Barry Beckett, known for his work on several Bob Dylan albums, including 'Slow Train Coming.' Neville, a longtime Dylan fan, had admired Beckett's work for some time, and working with him on 'Believe' was the fulfillment of yet another goal. The inspiration came quickly in the studio, and the two, along with guitarist Dean Parks and a crack rhythm section, completed the album in just about eight days.
In addition to the Gospel classics and secular covers, the 'Believe' sessions also included Neville's original songs. Included on the album are "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" and "Steer Me Right," both of which were inspired by poetry Neville had written in his personal journal.
Aaron Neville was raised in the Calliope Housing Project in New Orleans, initially a little-known member of the talented Neville family. He first achieved musical recognition with the single "Tell It Like It Is," but the success was short-lived. Neville toiled for years as a freight handler, longshoreman, ditch digger, and steel mill worker before regaining the spotlight.
Since then, he has attained deserved recognition as one of the most treasured voices in music, with four Grammy awards, numerous #1 hits, critical accolades and millions of fans.