Warren Zevon: Warren Zevon (Collector’s Edition)


The Collector’s Edition of Warren Zevon’s debut album has all the pristine clarity of most 70’s California rock. But the shadowy blue tones of the front-cover photograph suggest how deceptively arresting the music is inside.

Zevon’s work subsequent to his eponymous debut, especially Excitable Boy with "Werewolves of London," extracts and simplifies the primary elements of the author’s voice, such as the gonzo sense of humor of songs like "Poor Poor Pitiful Me”. Nothing Zevon ever recorded displayed more craftsmanship than "Backs Turned Looking Down the Path." The honest sentimentality within tunes such as "Hasten Down the Wind" always remained an integral component of Warren’s compositions, and his otherwise blunt approach to emotional communications, typified by "I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” likewise stood him in good stead throughout his career.

All those aforementioned virtues appear as prominently in the previously-unissued content included on the bonus CD as well as the re-mastered original disc of this package. The formality inherent in Zevon’s classical training on piano offsets the cracked stentorian tones of his singing voice so that, in combination with the literary bent of his writing, even solo piano tracks like "Frank and Jesse James” contain their share of drama. Without the cushion of orchestration in the previously-released version, this performance of "The French Inhaler" sounds absolutely unforgiving. And on "Desperadoes Under the Eaves," Zevon deftly robs the romance from the California cowboy scene of the times via his lyrics and vocal delivery.

The sparse mixes of “Carmelita” and  “Mohammed’s Radio” suggest producer/mentor Jackson Browne might’ve compiled an even more striking, though less prettified (and thus commercially viable), version of Warren Zevon. Like the enclosed booklet, with its well-tempered essay, striking photos (and the telling appearance of the Asylum Records imprint), the inclusion of such spontaneous recordings complete a graphic chronicle of the era and a comparably vivid portrait of the artist.

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