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Aaron Neville: Nature Boy: The Standards Album

illustration of Curtis Stigers, Boz Scaggs, Aaron Neville

Career in a slump? Haven’t had a major hit since the Reagan Administration? Not to worry. Just dig deep into the Great American Songbook, and then get your publicist to tell the world you’ve given up rock or pop or soul or country to reinvent yourself as a jazz singer. When Linda Ronstadt did it in 1983 (then did it again and again) it was a clever novelty, boosted by Ronstadt’s innate musicality and her savvy decision to invite Nelson Riddle to arrange and conduct. They weren’t jazz albums. Not by a long shot. But were pleasant, if occasionally overcooked, forays into the softer side of retro pop.

Oh, though, what Ronstadt has wrought. Motivated, surely, by the platinum success of What’s New (and the lesser, though substantial, sales of her two follow-up albums), an endless assortment of washed-up hit makers have since decided they, too, might travel the Gershwin or Mercer road to career redemption. A decade ago, at perhaps the lamentable trend’s lowest ebb (at least, to date), Lucie Arnaz-whose vocal skills clearly owe more to her mother than her father-unleashed the saccharine Just in Time on an unsuspecting world. Fortunately, the world paid little heed.

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