To my ears, the most enduring and influential artists who emerged from the 1970s “punk” era – which was noted for its fashionable scorn of pedigree and history – were actually skilled musicians with a reverence for a myriad of musical styles.
Witness the amazing collective Mink DeVille, led by the former William Borsay, who were a staple on the New York City scene with a canon that merged a new wave stance with a profound knowledge of rhythm & blues, Brill Building pop, Cajun, and soul. Following personnel changes in the DeVille camp, bassist Joe Vasta came on board for what I consider to be Willie DeVille’s two finest releases: Coupe De Grace (1981) and Where Angels Fear to Tread (1983).
With drummer Thommy Price (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts) and Vasta in-the-pocket, along with keyboardist Kenny Margolis, sax man Louis Cortelezzi, and guitarist Rick Borgia – Willie rocked with the depth of his contemporaries Bruce Springsteen, Garland Jeffreys, Patti Smith and Billy Joel to cite a few.
Unfortunately Mink never achieved commercial success, and the late Mr. DeVille embarked on a solo career which once again achieved exemplary artistic triumphs yet failed reached the wide audience he and his various ensembles so richly deserved.
Mr. Vasta, who was borne of a music family – his dad helmed a big band and played with Dizzy Gillespie – also worked with Billy Idol, John Waite, and Joan Jett, among many others, and is currently anchoring the Val Kinzler Band, and doing session work.