To many Neville Brothers fans, that's a magic phrase. It's the title of the 1989 Daniel Lanois-produced album that many fans consider the siblings' finest hour-at least in a studio.
So when Aaron Neville says the new Neville Brothers CD, Walkin' in the Shadow of Life, reminded him of the making of Yellow Moon, that's no small statement.
"Most producers, they try to inflict their own personality, their own ideas or whatever, and Daniel Lanois, he was just bringing out what was already there," Neville says of recording Yellow Moon.
The same kind of hands-off atmosphere existed during the making of Walkin' in the Shadow of Life, which was produced by the band themselves, along with Melvin Davis (John Mellencamp, Dionne Farris) and Aaron Neville's son, Ivan.
That the recording sessions produced one of the purest Neville Brothers albums makes sense considering it was the most self-contained project in what is now nearly a 30-year history for the venerable New Orleans group. For one thing, the group-singer Aaron Neville, keyboardist Art Neville, saxophone player Charles Neville and percussionist/singer Cyril Neville-did the record without a record label in tow. So, unlike many past albums, there was no outside influences that affected its creation.
That's not how it used to be, as Aaron recalls: "There were record companies and A&R guys and producers trying to figure how the Neville Brothers should sound and [pairing us] with writers who half the time didn't know anything about the Nevilles."
Walkin' in the Shadow of Life was also the first CD recorded at the band's newly built studio on Canal Street in New Orleans, cheekily named Neville Neville Land. And as the involvement of Ivan Neville suggests, this was more of a family affair than any other Neville Brothers record.
Ivan, in particular, was closely involved. The oldest son of Aaron Neville, Ivan has had a busy music career of his own for nearly 20 years. He had stints playing in X-pensive Winos (the project of Keith Richards and Bonnie Raitt) and has released several solid, yet sadly overlooked, solo records. He was even briefly a member of the Spin Doctors.
Ivan stepped into the Neville Brothers in 2001 when severe back problems forced Art Neville off the road. And when they started thinking about doing a new CD-their first since 1999's Valence Street-he became a catalyst for the creative process. He not only played a major role in producing the album, but he also co-wrote nine of the CD's 13 songs.
Other family members making appearances on the CD include two other sons of Aaron Neville (Jason and Aaron Jr.), Art Neville's son Ian and Cyril Neville's son Omari.
Where many past albums would feature each of the Nevilles on individual songs, Walkin' in the Shadow of Life weaves the talents of the Nevilles into the fabric of each song, whether it be Aaron's delicate vocals, Cyril's funky percussion, Art's percussive keyboards or Charles' saxophone.
"This album is all of us doing all of the songs," Aaron says. "We're not taking different parts on all of the songs. It's like a family thing, not just the individuals."
Not surprisingly, the new CD, more than any album since Yellow Moon, captures the funky essence of a live Neville Brothers show.
The title track kicks the album off on a high note, with its sweet groove and infectious vocal melody forming a festive mix. "Can't Stop the Funk" delivers a haymaker of deep funk, mixed with touches of jazz and rap. "Streets Are Calling" offers a potent mix of melody, rhythm and rock.
"Kingdom Come," a tense and simmering song Cyril Neville wrote with U2 singer Bono around the time of Yellow Moon, makes its appearance here. "Junkie Child" is a bittersweet and soulful song inspired by a poem Aaron wrote about the perils young people face with drugs, gangs and other elements of life.
Although the Neville Brothers have been touring and recording since the mid-1970s, the band may now be best known through Aaron, who has enjoyed several hit singles since re-launching his solo career in 1991 with the album Warm Your Heart. His latest solo effort, 2003's Nature Boy, was a collection of jazz standards that earned him a Grammy nomination.
Despite his success, Aaron says he doesn't feel pressured to ramp up his solo career at the expense of the Neville Brothers.
"I take it one thing at a time," he says. "Right now the most important thing is us promoting this record. I've got other things on the fire. I've got to finish a Christmas album. Me and Linda [Rondstadt, his frequent singing partner] have been talking-we need about three or four more songs to have a duets album.
"So I don't get pressured by anything. Things happen on their own anyway."
The Neville Brothers play with Shemekia Copeland at Humphrey's, 7:30 p.m. on June 24. $42. 619-220-8497.