Mink DeVille

Live at Montreux 1982

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Since there is little officially licensed video of N.Y.C.'s punk/soul outfit Mink DeVille during its salad days, this DVD is especially welcome. Even if it wasn't a find because of the scarcity of footage of the pre-solo Willy DeVille led band, this is a rousing document of the act at its zenith. Add in the rarity factor and it's a flawed yet must-have DVD for all DeVille fans, in either solo or group configurations. Willy and his band stuff 16 songs into just over an hour, yet the set captures the various sides of the rocking R&B unit from the charging "Cadillac Walk" to the urban balladry of the Springsteen-esque "Love and Emotion." Willy is soaked with sweat by the third tune, but still manages to look like the coolest dude ever to take the famed Montreux stage. DeVille was touring behind 1981's Coup de Grace, generally considered its finest moment, although only four tunes appear from that album. The rest are divvied up equally among three other releases, making this a terrific overview of DeVille's best work. Saxist Louis Cortelezzi plays the Clarence Clemens role, infusing songs such as the yearning "This Must the Night" and the stunning "Teardrops Must Fall" with a smoky, back alley '60s sensibility meshed with raw sex appeal. Willy doesn't say much other than to try to get a nagging high-pitched squeal out of the sound system, but he is magnetic throughout and seems to be enjoying himself even though smiling isn't part of his persona. He's certainly giving it up in front of a sturdy backing combo that knows when to turn on the heat (a roaring "Love Me Like You Did Before," a tough "Spanish Stroll," a charging "Lipstick Traces") and when to lay back and sizzle (easing into "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl"). By the time "Stand by Me" appears as the encore and the show's only cover, it's clear this ensemble perfectly reflects its leader's rugged sense of street smarts, smooth style, and swaggering songwriting. The surround mix is clean, and the camera work, while somewhat ragged, effectively catches the action without the incessant cutting and slickness that mar so many concert videos. This is a terrific, moving, and historically valuable DVD, especially for those who never got a chance to experience DeVille and his boys live.

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