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Music Review Cabretta
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Mink DeVille

As far as first albums go, this is a beauty. Willy DeVille seemed to appear out of nowhere, emerging from the smoky haze of the CBGB’s scene without ever really fitting in. He was too respectful of rock and soul music’s past, so the mold of the rebellious downtown punk scene didn’t fit him. With the focused energy of an iconoclast, Deville wrote a set of sublime songs that can suggest the street smarts of Lou Reed, the Drifters, a Spanish pimp and/or Doc Pomus. He also assembled a band that knew how to walk the fine line between understatement and expression. Given ten incredible songs, they provide perfect support for this intriguing, romantic mix of styles.

Willy DeVille sounds like a back street hood who likens himself as a flamenco cowboy. He’s a punky loisaida who wants to seduce Ronnie Spector, and (best of all) he knows what it takes. It’s an album of dreams and fantasy, but the dream is never too extravagant. It’s a world where a ’76 Cadillac is the ride of choice, but usually unattainable. It’s a world where the object of attention is “the queen of (his) block” who’s got ‘the Cadillac walk’. The fantasies are simple but no less extraordinary for the desire they convey. Like all truly great rock and roll, the songs mix fantasy and longing (not lust, by the way – lust is crude, but longing is delicious and sophisticated). “Venus of Avenue D” and “Spanish Stroll” find their romance in the street, and both walk that line between lust and longing, in the feeling of getting turned on by somebody. Willy’s character is tough as nails on the outside, but the hard surface doesn’t run deep enough to cover the heart that he wears on his sleeve. Even a casual listen to the album’s closing track, “Party Girls” makes this abundantly clear. DeVille’s a leather-jacketed romantic who looks so tough, but desperately wants the world to love him. A good many very well might have loved him, too, if only they had heard this album. Under-promoted, under-appreciated and ultimately under-sold, Cabretta is a sleeper masterpiece that sounds as good today as it did in 1977.
Grade: Grade A

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