Thursday, 11 October 2018

Willy De Ville - Backstreets Of Desire (1992)


Released October 1992

This is possibly Willy De Ville's finest solo album, one in which he merges that archetypal Latin-tinged "West Side Story" meets the Drifters street-soul sound that so characterised his days with Mink De Ville with his love his New Orleans blues and jazz-influenced rock. There other influences in there too - Mexican mariachi, Cuban salsa, Deep South swamp rock, Cajun music, New Wave and fifties doo-wop. For a long-time fan of De Ville since first hearing him in 1977, this is manna from De Ville Heaven (which is a place full of addictive Latin rhythms, bluesy rock riffs and that hard-as-nails but simultaneously tender voice).


1. Empty Heart
2. All In The Name Of Love
3. Lonely Hunter
4. Even When I Sleep
5. Voodoo Charm
6. Come To Poppa
7. Chemical Warfare
8. Hey Joe
9. I Call Your Name
10. I Can Give You Everything
11. Jump City
12. Bamboo Road
13. All In The Name Of Love

The album starts well, with the typical soulful backstreet heartbreaker of "Empty Heart" and then we get a true De Ville classic in the uplifting majesty of "All In The Name Of Love". Willy's voice is just superb on this. A melodic fiddle riff is all over the sumptuous "Lonely Hunter". Lyrically, good old Willy never changed - his songs are full of lonely hunters, backstreet heroes and openly-expressed desires, hearts on sleeves, girls with angel eyes and the feel of a barrio street on a hot, sultry Saturday evening. Willy always liked a bit of Cajun influence and next up is "Even When I Sleep", a pulsating rocker with an intoxicating Cajun accordion driving the song along. Willy's distinctive, nasal twang rides high over this pounding, good-time rhythm, but it never loses its soul. Willy never lost his soul.

Willy leaves his romantic side behind him for the next batch of songs as he goes off the main drag to the darker streets for a while. "Voodoo Charm" is a mysterious, swampy number of the kind De Ville does so well, taking us to the darkest corners of greater New Orleans. The grinding "Come To Poppa" continues the bluesy groove. "Chemical Warfare" is a unique De Ville track - a rhythmic, politically-motivated beguiling number. Now, it must be time for a bit of Latin party again, and this arrives with the Mexican-influenced and winning cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe", played as if sung by a Mariachi band in Guadalajara. It works superbly well. I love it. "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand....." suits de Ville so well. Check out that trumpet solo in the middle. Superb.

The old street romance is back with the Latin acoustic guitar and sweeping strings of "I Call Your Name". "I Can Only Give You Everything" is a muscular, riffy rocker. "Jump City" is a lively, rhythmic New Orleans-style number and "Bamboo Road" is an evocative, atmospheric Cajun-soul song about cane sugar workers toiling in the heat. This excellent album ends with a New Orleans-funeral style "Salvation Army version" of "All In The Name Of Love". When I heard of his passing in August 2009, this was the first song of his I played. Obviously I never knew Willy De Ville, but with regard to his music, I miss him dearly.


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