When last heard on a live recording—1984’s sultry Neville-ization—the Neville Brothers had a lot to prove; their career was floundering, and a steamy live album seemed the only way to redeem themselves. A decade later, the Nevilles are both selling records and maintaining their integrity, while brother Aaron has become the unlikely king of jingles. The pressure is off, and the band can simply be itself-which, judging from Live on Planet Earth, is essentially the world’s funkiest gumbo party revue with a social conscience.
Who else could leap from a slinky civil-rights sing-along like ”Sister Rosa” to a thick-and-chunky rendition of ”Love the One You’re With”? And then have Aaron sing a touching ”Amazing Grace” and indulge brother Charles in a saxophone instrumental that would be ideal background music in a New Orleans dentist’s office? And who could then cap it all off by bidding the crowd good night with a shout of ”Shalom!”? Nobody but the Nevilles-recognized or not, they’re still shameless, but lovable, entertainers. Earth does more than just strip away the sterility of their recent studio albums. It’ll make you want to hire the Nevilles for a wedding.