Willy DeVille

In New Orleans

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Willy DeVille's In New Orleans compiles two recordings the singer and songwriter issued for two different labels: Victory Mixture, released on Sky Ranch in 1990, and Big Easy Fantasy, released by Wotre Records in 1995. The former album was cut at the legendary Sea Saint Studios with a cast of NOLA all-stars including Dr. John, the Meters' George Porter and Leo Nocentelli, Eddie Bo, Wayne Bennett, Allen Toussaint, and more. It's a collection of both well-known and obscure New Orleans tunes from the R&B canon. DeVille's performance in this unlikely setting -- his first independent recording date -- is remarkable. He retains his trademark, old-school soul-rock style and somehow melds it seamlessly into the NOLA tradition. Standouts include fine readings of Ernie K-Doe's "Beating Like a Tom-Tom," Earl Kit Carson's "Big Blue Diamonds," and Toussaint's "Hello My Lover." Big Easy Fantasy, the latter album and the rarest in DeVille's catalog, is a rather confusing yet satisfying compilation -- of sorts. It contains six unissued concert performances that were originally to be included on his Live album, and one track left off the Victory Mixture sessions, as well as another studio number that never found a home on Backstreets of Desire. Of the live tracks, there are three versions of tunes from Victory Mixture including "Key to My Heart," "Every Dog Has Its Day," and "Hello My Lover." (All of them superior to the studio takes.) These and "Jump City," "Iko Iko," and "Meet the Boys on the Battlefront" were cut in concert in New York and Paris, with Bo and members of the Wild Magnolias. Of the two studio numbers, one is a stellar reading of Jack Dupree's "Junker's Blues," and an original, "Just Off Decatur Street," that were later overdubbed in Los Angeles around the time of his DeVille's Backstreets of Desire album. Horns were overdubbed onto the original masters and Chris Spedding overdubbed a dobro on the latter. What's most amazing about Big Easy Fantasy was that it was issued without the approval of DeVille. All of this said, In New Orleans demands consideration because of the rejuvenation of DeVille's musical persona. These are inspired recordings, full of crackling energy that highlights a top-shelf artist who, even when written off, could rise to and thrive in virtually any situation.

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