Thursday, 24 July 2008

"Miracle" by WILLY DeVILLE. A Review Of His Forgotten 1987 Album Now Reissued By Raven Onto CD With Bonus Tracks.

Picture above left is the original UK LP sleeve - the picture above right is the sleeve art for the Raven Label re-issue CD

Willy DeVille's "Miracle" was released in 1987 in the UK on Polydor across 3 formats. 
The LP was Polydor POLH 39, the cassette 833 669-4 and the CD 833 669-2. 

It was produced by MARK KNOPFLER of DIRE STRAITS and featured his distinctive and beautiful guitar work across all 10 of its tracks. There's superlative contributions also from JEFF PORCARO of TOTO on drums, CHET ATKINS on guitar gracing the gorgeous "Heart & Soul" and backing vocals provided by the lovely Margo Buchanan and Vikki Brown on 4 of the 10 tracks. All tracks are written by DeVille except "Could You Would You", which is a Van Morrison cover off the 2nd Them album from 1966, "Them Again". The song "Spanish Jack" is a co-write with Knopfler.

The album was a Full Digital Recording carrying the then desirable DDD code on the back of the sleeve - and was of course an audiophile's dream. Beautifully produced by Knopfler and played sweetly by all, the album gave vent to DeVille's New Orleans street romanticism - a style and a way about him that has captured his fans since his stunning "Cabretta" debut on Capitol in 1977.

"Miracle" received good reviews at the time, and with a heavy-hitter like Knopfler on board, it should have garnished better sales and exposure, but for some reason it failed to break into the top 50 here in the UK. It's worth mentioning that it officially spurned 2 singles here in the UK, which had 3 formats each (7”/12” and CD Single). The 1st was "Miracle" (CD single Polydor POCD 891) 1. Miracle. 2 I Call Your Name 3. Could You Would You. You'll no doubt notice that "I Call Your Name" is a NON-ALBUM track and is an absolute sweetie. A real shame Raven didn't use it as a bonus track here where it would have matched the release. 

The 2nd single was "Assassin Of Love" (CD single Polydor POCD 904) 
1. Assassin Of Love Extended Version. 2. Spanish Jack. 3. Spanish Stroll (Live) 4. Desperate Days (Live). The extended version of "Assassin" was a 12" mix and typical of so many Eighties Extended Version travesties - instead of improving the song - it utterly ruined the stunning slinky menace of the tightly edited album version. The two live tracks fared better though and are previously unreleased (I’m fairly sure they’re unavailable anywhere else). 

"Storybook Love" was also featured in "The Princess Bride" movie from 1987 and was Oscar nominated - there was a CD single of it here in the UK but it contained nothing new or unreleased. All 3 CD singles came in card sleeves and are very hard to find today.

The 4 bonus tracks provided on the Raven 1994 re-issue are:
11. "Heat Of The Moment" 12. "Pullin' My String" 13. "It's So Easy" 14. 1987 Willy DeVille Interview. 
Tracks 11-13 are from the 1980 soundtrack "Cruising" and are rare - unavailable anywhere else except here to my knowledge. 

The front artwork on the Raven re-issue is also different – not nearly as good as the album original as you can see above. 

Having A/B’d the sound – there’s no difference between the Raven issue and the original Polydor DDD release – no re-mastering has been done, but then again, there’s no need to – the sound is sweet and full.

"Miracle" used to go for money on vinyl or CD because of the quality of the production (quite apart from the fact that at least half of the tunes are great!). I think it may been the awful opener "(Due To) Gun Control" that put people off - "I Call Your Name" would have been far more appropriate and announced properly the albums overall romantic feel. The Knopfler guitar work and slinky almost soulful feel to "I Call Your Name" could easily have been on any Dire Straits album of the period.

"Miracle" is something of a lost classic from the 80's and I recommend this album to both DeVille and Dire Straits fans alike – a lovely meeting of like-minds producing great music that stands up to its 20th Anniversary in 2007. Ripe for rediscovery I reckon.

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