Friday, September 4, 2009

All the Sadder...

After Willy DeVille passed on, I listened to some of the more recent stuff I had never heard before. Following his pompadour Brill Building stylings, Willy went on a musical journey that took him through Native American music, New Orleans and the blues. Recent is a relative term. His last studio album, Pistola, came out last year. I have yet to hear any of it. I did, however, hear a cut from the live in Berlin CD, that was released in 2002, on Youtube. It also was released as a DVD so the quality was pretty good. I listened to Storybook Love and was pretty much blown away. I just got the CD (actually, a 2 CD set). It is revelatory. Willy's voice is ravaged, by time, cigarettes and the effects of drug addiction, but his range is something short of miraculous. His version of Ben E. King's classic Spanish Harlem is astonishing. On the blues, he sounds like an old black resident of the delta that no longer exists. On some of the early rock remakes, he sounds angelic and tender. And on Storybook Love, he is so vulnerable and convincing. What is more amazing about this CD is the recording itself. I don't know that much about recording techniques, but I know what's good. And this is beyond that. The piano, in particular, has such a vibrant presence it sounds like you are leaning on it, listening in. For the few that think of Willy DeVille as a novelty retro act at the onset of punk would be astounded by this. For me, I feel his loss all the more and appreciate what a giant talent he was. For anyone who likes music, regardless of genre, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Requiescat in pace, Willy.

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