Mink DeVille

Where Angels Fear to Tread

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After Le Chat Bleu, this Mink DeVille record foretold the depth and dimension of Willy DeVille's talent and the lengths he would go to as a vocalist and songwriter to get the right mix of emotion, drama, and rock & roll attitude. Featuring the core band from Coup de Grace -- Louis Cortelezzi on sax; Kenny Margolis on keyboards, including accordion; DeVille and Rick Borgia on guitars; and Tommy Price on drums -- the seam in the album comes on the second track, "River of Tears," with its stunning soprano saxophone lines, marimbas, accordions, and howling, raw, Gato Barbieri-like tenor lines in the choruses. When DeVille sings, "Every night lonely, empty dreams/Here comes that tide washing over me/Not again/Oh no/Not again/I don't want to cry/But there's tears in my eyes/I don't want to cry/That river of tears," the horns and accordion swirl around him until the final 16 measures, when the guitars and marimbas envelop all his loss in their warmth. His voice is the grain of every rock & roll lothario's Waterloo. DeVille follows this with a scorching Cuban son called "Demisado Corazon," featuring full salsa horn and percussion sections. Talk about Spanish soul, this tune burns with it; it sweats and dances with a bleeding heart full of pathos, eros, and violence. As usual, though, it's on the ballads that Willy DeVille reveals that he and his band were rock's most diverse unit. "Around the Corner" and "The Moonlight Let Me Down" may borrow inspiration from Dan Penn and Doc Pomus, but it doesn't matter: DeVille and his band were burning through the pages of rock and R&B history (there are a couple of doo wop- and New Orleans-flavored cuts as well) with raw swagger and astonishing musicianship. Why they didn't catch and George Thorogood did is a mystery that will be up to music historians to figure out.

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