Following the international success of “Brothers in Arms,” Mark Knopfler set forth in a variety of directions to keep himself busy musically and to take a break from Dire Straits. He produced several albums, including 1987’s A&M release, Willy DeVille’s “Miracle.”
Like Knopfler, DeVille was the singer-songwriter and driving force behind his band Mink DeVille. “Miracle” was his first solo outing. According to a very recent interview with Richard Marcus, DeVille remembered how the album came together. “It was Mark’s (then) wife Lourdes who came up with the idea. She said to him that you don’t sing like Willy and he doesn’t play guitar like you, nobody plays guitar like him…. You really like his stuff so why don’t you do an album together?” (In fact, DeVille cleverly dedicates the album to Knopfler and ex-wife Lourdes “for their support which was nothing short of a Miracle in a time of Dire Straits.”)
DeVille also recalled “It wasn’t easy because we didn’t want it to sound like a Dire Straits’ album, and his guitar playing is so unique that it was hard to do. But nothing good is going to be easy. I know that I spent the whole time really trying to impress Mark, I wanted it to be good.” He’s still proud of the album, nearly twenty years later, citing “Southern Politician” as one of his favorite tracks.
The only real Dire Straits influences heard on the album are Knopfler’s distinctive guitar work and keyboardist Guy Fletcher’s synthesizers. Knopfler also recruited his childhood hero, Nashville guitar icon Chet Atkins, to play on the song “Heart and Soul.”
The surprise of the album was “Storybook Love,” which also appeared on Knopfler’s soundtrack for Rob Reiner’s fairy tale film The Princess Bride. The song was written completely coincidentally, but when Knopfler heard it and played it for Reiner, they both decided it should be the title track for the movie. It went on to earn an Academy Award nomination, and DeVille appeared at the Oscar ceremony to perform the song.
Thom Jurek, All Music Guide, writes of the album: “There is a notable difference in production style thanks to Dire Strait Mark Knopfler at the helm.” He observes that Knopfler was able to soften the edges and shift the focus to DeVille as a “singer of fine pop ballads.” A&M may have failed to effectively market the album, but critics and fans alike realize that this was a turning point in Willy DeVille’s career, with some of his best and most memorable work appearing on it.