The Neville Brothers are pedigreed to the max and vernaculared to the hilt. These consummate R&B musicians are New Orleans's most prominent claim to pop fame, occupying a position analogous to Wynton Marsalis's in jazz. They're venerable, infectious, and ineffably musical. They craft great songs and not-so-great albums, and they're hobbled by the very fact of their brotherhood: Aaron Neville, the best-known brother, is a star in his own right, both solo and with Linda Ronstadt. Which makes it difficult for the Neville Brothers to forge an identity of their own. Keyboardist Arthur, saxophonist Charles, vocalist Aaron, and percussionist Cyril didn't form a group under their own name until 1977, but Art had recorded as far back as 1955 with the Hawketts. Art Neville & the Sounds, the band he formed in 1967, also included Aaron and Charles. Other groups in which patriarch Art had a hand include the Meters, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and other bands linked to the second-line rhythms of the Crescent City. Over the years, several Neville descendants have also made minor marks, including Aaron's son, Ivan, a member of Keith Richards's Expensive Winos. Over the years, too, the Nevilles have backed or been backed by the cream of rock and pop. Everybody, it seems, wants them to succeed. Despite their undeniable musicality, commercial success has largely eluded them. Albums like 1981's Fiyo on the Bayou
and 1989's Yellow Moon
, along with several live recordings, capture the sultry power of the group; sales, however, haven't been commensurate with their talent.