Monday, June 6, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: WILLY DeVILLE - COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER: THE BEST OF LIVE
This type of collection always seems dubious, as they are rarely artist-approved, and usually taken from less-than-top quality sources. And you know Willy wasn't involved, since he passed away in 2009. What does a best-of live album comprise, anyway? His best live performances, or his best-known songs, or the best of whatever is lying around? Usually it's the latter, and really, the best rarely comes into it. It's most often a sad attempt to cash in on an artist well past the best-before date, groups with 2 original members trying to recreate the old hits.
Okay, having got all those negatives out there, I will say this set is an example of how to do it well. Using several source shows, including the extensive Montreux Jazz Festival catalogue they own, Eagle Records has actually put together a fine retrospective. Yes, the songs you expect from him are here, including his only real hit, the beautiful Storybook Love from The Princess Bride soundtrack, which brought him the most fame, and an Oscar nomination. His days leading the New York punkish 70's band Mink Deville are also well represented, with the British hit Spanish Stroll, of course. When you settle into the other 15 cuts, aside from an odd Mexican version of Hey Joe, complete with cheezy accents, you start to realize why the guy was one of those beloved-by-his-cult performers.
Given the title, I'm confused why there isn't a cover of the famous 60's hit for Jay and the Americans. After all, that's the template song for DeVille's NYC multicultural rock. Latin, Puerto Rican, Cajun, Mexican, doo-wop, it's one big melting pot, and DeVille put it all together in a way that Springsteen always attempted, that street sound of punks and lovers. DeVille could write these songs, and took it many places in his career. It's no surprise he found his best audiences back in New York, and in Europe, where they wanted to hear these rich tales. For once, this might be exactly the best kind of compilation for DeVille.