After Warren Zevon's death in 2003, his son Jordan was clearing out a storage space when he found a large stash of demos and home recordings Zevon had made before 1976. Winnowed down from many hours of tape, this selection is so satisfying you're left awaiting another volume almost instantly. Preludes
has been generously packaged with a booklet overflowing with reminiscences and insight from peers and family, as well as a bonus disc with recent interview extracts and choice selections from 2000's Life'll Kill Ya
. The rough sound quality is more than made up for by the performances. Highlights include a speedier, country-punk garage take on "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" and the original demo of "Werewolves of London," here presented in a slowed-down reggae-ish (and campier) take. Only two of these 16 takes fall flat: the vocals on "Accidentally Like a Martyr" are just too bleak even for Zevon, while the faux-sunshine Eagles-y production on "Ride So High" is interesting but just too anachronistic. The versions of "French Inhaler" and "Carmelita" show Zevon in his angry, post-Dylan singer-songwriter style. It's reminiscent of the best John Cale solo recordings. Poignant, beautiful and bitter, it's no wonder the guy didn't fit in with his California contemporaries. As with Townes Van Zandt, there's something of a great short story in Zevon's songs; confronted with them in all their ragged, stripped-down glory, it's clear what a major talent he was. --Mike McGonigal
More from Warren Zevon
Following Warren's death in 2003, his son, Jordan Zevon, discovered 126 unreleased outtakes and demos in a piano-sized touring case. This 2-CD set collects the best of these recordings.