Picks and Pans Review: Miracle

updated 12/07/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/07/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Willy DeVille

The great ones, those with style instead of merely attitude, don't try to bowl you over with 10 rapid-fire notes when a single well-chosen one will do. From Miles Davis to Jeff Beck, the masters possess a gift for economy of phrasing. Willy DeVille is a great singer. He might not be able to scat with Ella Fitzgerald or hit every note in the national anthem, but his sultry, cowled voice, full of passion and a hint of menace, is a real bodice-ripper. Over the years he has recorded some fascinating if uneven records with a shifting group of musicians known as Mink DeVille. His first solo album teams him with Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler as producer. That seems like an unlikely alliance, the barrio Romeo from Nueva York guided by Britain's foremost pop guitarist, but it works. Knopfler's fluid, springy guitar playing is quite as distinctive as DeVille's voice, so he avoids extended solos that would distract from this singer's showcase. Instead, on songs such as Assassin of Love and Southern Politician, Knopfler creates spare, hypnotic musical atmospheres for DeVille to cut through with his stiletto style. DeVille requires precious little help, though, on two of the album's best songs. Heart and Soul and Nightfalls are the type of ballad that has become his trademark: Spanish Harlem street serenades. Miracle is no earthshaking achievement, but if you're not already enraptured with DeVille's voice, it serves as an attractive introduction. (A&M)

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