Friday, August 15, 2008

Mink Deville – Cabretta and Return to Magenta

Coming out of the NY new wave scene and combining 50’s/early 60’s doo-wop with Spanish soul and r’n’b, Mink Deville created a sound that was not new, but was fresh and different in the late 70’s.

Many bands were mining the 60’s at this time, but few, if any, were recreating the street vocal sounds that Mink favored, though he also didn’t shy away from some tough, rockin’ r’n’b when he was in the mood, either!

The debut album, Cabretta, starts with the sultry “Venus of Avenue D”, a slinky, groovin’ number that moves from quiet verses to rough choruses. Excellent opener!

“Little Girl” is pure street soul/doo-wop – this woulda been a hit in the early 60’s! Moving back into rockin’ r’n’b with “One Way Street” the band really cooks and struts their stuff! They quiet down again for “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl”, which reminds me of “Save the Last Dance For Me” in feel. These certainly weren’t wild punks, but they knew how to make some great music!

They turn up the heat for “Gunslinger”, an energetic piece of guitar r’n’r riffery. Returning to pure soul with “Can’t Do Without It”, they bring in a sax for added texture and create a fine, emotional ballad. Continuing with this album’s concept of alternating quiet and rockin’ tunes, the beat jumps a notch for “Cadillac Walk”, though it doesn’t go into flat-out rock – it remains fairly subtle as it gets your toes tapping! This band really knew how to play with dynamics.

Opening with ringing Telecaster chords, “Spanish Stroll” (nice follow up to “Cadillac Walk”) remains reasonably upbeat and you can picture Mink wandering the streets of New York. The “ooh-ooh” backing vocals remind you of the early 60’s yet again, while the Spanish street talk section almost sounds like it was lifted from “West Side Story”!

Another superbly crafted tune is “She’s So Tough” - more dynamic work, good melody, cool guitar playing and an all around original piece of late 70’s r’n’b rock. The album closes with the keyboard ballad “Party Girls”.

Mink could really write some fine tunes and wasn’t afraid to stand out from the punk/new wave scene. This record sounds more like it would be at home with Graham Parker or Southside Johnny than Johnny Thunders or the Ramones. But, as a lover of all 60’s rock, I still find this a terrific outing.

Return to Magenta, the follow up, has a similar sound, which isn’t surprising as it came out shortly after the debut. The opener, “Guardian Angel” could’ve been a lost Phil Spector production – complete with strings – showing once again, that Mink wasn’t afraid to depart from the current crop of bands.

But he also wasn’t afraid to shake it up, as with “Soul Twist”, a fast dance number with an insistent beat and some ultra-cool guitar accents. Back to an almost “Stand By Me” feel is “”A” Train Lady”, another quiet soul ballad. Continuing with the alternating theme, “Rolene” is similar to “Soul Twist” or “One Way Street” – rockin’ and with a catchy guitar lick and chorus.

“Desperate Days” is his foray into ska, which again, was initially a 60’s phenomenon. He does add a more r’n’r chorus and creates a cool tune. Another return to the Brill Building sound (all of this recreated with the help of producer Jack Nitzsche) is “Just Your Friends”, again augmented with strings, this could easily fit into place in a compilation of 60’s Spector-pop.

One of Mink’s most rockin’ numbers off of these two records is undoubtedly “Steady Driving Man”, a bluesy tune full of blustery bravado. Great breaks during which DeVille gets to show off just how growly his voice can get. He moves into more of a New Orleans sound with “Easy Slider”, a honky-tonk piano driven number.

One more ballad with “I Broke That Promise”, another mimic of early 60’s sounds, this time with some flamenco-styled guitar playing. Mink closes the record with the intense “Confidence to Kill” – fierce, guitar driven r’n’b. Nice to end things up on high (energy) note!

Again, don’t expect punk rock from these records, but if you’re into well written, 60’s influenced soul/r’n’b, check out these records!