on February 8, 2004
You know someone is unique when the guy finds out he has a terminal illness and he, not Leno or Letterman (no, certainly not Letterman), is the one who sees gallows humor in the predicament.
On the Letterman Show, Warren Zevon, with a wry, paradoxical smile and laugh, said that his fear of doctors was "one of those phobias that didn't pay off." Also on that night, Zevon, who has told us so much through his songs, gave us a precious nugget he discovered, something he knows that David Letterman and other people whose life expectancy doesn't number in months or days, or in Warren's case, as he's already supposed to be sleeping while dead, negative numbers: we better learn to enjoy each sandwich.
Zevon, surpassing the limitations prescribed by his doctors, has lived to see the birth of his twin grandchildren and the release of his wonderful latest album, the understandably melancholy, yet at times strangely upbeat, _The Wind_. I feel privileged to bear witness to the Mutineer's final journey, as it, like his last two studio albums, holds its own with Zevon's greatest albums (Warren's best album for my money is "Life'll Kill Ya," written and recorded way before the cancer diagnosis).
Anyway, Zevon starts out with one of his great turns of phrase: "Some days I feel like my shadow's casting me, Some days the sun don't shine." I love that image of a shadow casting a person -- it evokes a darkness, a state of nothingness, death, and yet, the lyrics are carefully crafted: only on some
days does Zevon, and I'm going to presume that there's plenty of self-reference going on on this album, feel that his shadow is casting him and that the sun is not shining. Even in the face of certain death, the implication remains that there are days when the sun shines -- when Warren still casts his own
shadow. Later in the song we're reminded that Warren's "winding down [his] dirty life and times," and the lump hits the throat. Oh, is this a painful record. And it was so painful, on so many levels (the VH-1 special is essential viewing), for Warren. But like all great works of music, it somehow raises the spirit -- of both the listener and the singer-songwriter.
Next is "Disorder in the House," an outrageous, confused rocker, that describes both Warren's state-of-mind, and, on a broader scale, the state-of-mind of his country: "The floodgates are open, We've let the demons loose, The big guns have spoken, and we've fallen for the ruse." Bruce Sprinsgteen lends sharp
vocals and killer guitar to Disorder.
The third song is "Knockin'." There's nothing I can say about this song, this rendition, and all it means, that could do it justice. So I won't try.
"Numb as a Statue" proves that, no matter what, Zevon's not going to lose that biting, intelligent, sarcastic sense of humor: "I don't care if it's superficial, You don't have to dig down deep, Just bring enough for the ritual, get here before I fall asleep."
What follows is a song that I immediately place among Warren's greatest, and without hesitation I find it to be the best thing on "The Wind": "She's Too Good For Me." This one brought tears to my eyes, but, strangely enough, not in the way "Dirty Life and Times" or, my God, the last song did, but on a level
associated purely with the song itself -- I can envision the situation as removed from Warren Zevon's life and disease; it works on many levels. It's a work of pure beauty.
"Prison Grove" strikes me as in some ways Zevon's "I Shall Be Released." Both songs are ostensibly about escaping prisons, but ultimately the songs are universal and we're all in prisons that we will all one day inevitably escape: "Some folks have to die too hard, Some folks have to cry too hard, Take one last look at the prison yard, Goodbye Prison Grove."
There are also two great blues numbers on _The Wind_, "Please Stay" and "Rub Me Raw," that reminded me a bit of Dylan's blues on "Love and Theft." At this point, I think Zevon's blues have a basis that might even be comparable on an emotional level to the blues's original impetus: racism. Nobody is going to
question this white man singing the blues.
The album's final song is "Keep Me in Your Heart." It's opening pays homage to Dylan's _Time Out of Mind_: "Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath." This song absolutely destroys me, tears flow free, beyond mere watery eyes. If the
message "Keep me in your heart for awhile" is directed to Warren Zevon's fans, and not just his family and friends, Warren, you're going to be in my heart for a lot longer than a while. I only hope that I can be as strong and courageous as Warren Zevon, "Mr. 'Bad' Example", if the situation calls for it.
Rest in Peace, Warren. And thank you for all you've given us.
on August 29, 2003
Judging by the people who helped with or appeared on this album, Warren Zevon is truly blessed with a lot of famous friends. As Warren himself said, David Letterman was the best friend his music had. Bob Dylan has taken to doing some Zevon covers in concert lately. Warren returned the favor by recording a Dylan song on this album. A partial list of those who appear on this album with Warren are: his mentor Jackson Browne, his longtime songwriting partner Jorge Calderon, Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, Don Henley, David Lindley, Tom Petty, Timothy B. Schmit, Tommy Shaw, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bob Thornton, Joe Walsh and Dwight Yoakam.
"Dirty Life And Times" - When the opening line of the first song on the album is, "Some days I feel like my shadow's casting me," you can't help but be reminded of Warren's terminal illness. I can assure you that this is NOT a depressing album. With tasty guitar licks from Ry Cooder and backing vocals from Billy Bob Thornton and Dwight Yoakam, this song has a strong country music flavor to it.
"Disorder In The House" - Lyrically, this song is very reminiscent of "I Was In the House When The House Burned Down." This song is a real rocker, with Bruce Springsteen providing scorching guitar licks. His guitar solos sound like Jimi Hendrix, with Bruce holding nothing back. In addition, his vocal contributions amount to a duet between Bruce and Warren, rather than Warren singing lead with Bruce in the background.
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - Warren turns in a heartfelt vocal on this classic Dylan song. May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you're dead, Warren.
"Numb As A Statue" - This is another rocker, in which Warren pleads to beg, borrow or steal some feelings so he can feel something too. Leave it to Warren to equate being on painkillers with being emotionally withdrawn.
"She's Too Good For Me" - Warren is at his self-deprecating best in this moving ballad. Half of the Eagles, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit, provide harmonious background vocals.
"Prison Grove" - This is the most ominous sounding song on the album. The prisoner is sentenced to death, and you know for sure that the governor is not going to call with a last minute stay of execution.
"El Amor De Mi Vida" - The love of my life is Warren's tender love song to his lady, with Jorge Calderon providing background vocals in Spanish. The saddest aspect of this song is the weakness in Warren's voice. Unlike the rest of the songs, you can almost feel him struggling for breath to sing this.
"The Rest Of The Night" - Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow...well, you know. Helping the listener party hearty are Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. You could almost say that this song was performed by Warren Zevon and the Heartbreakers!
"Please Stay" - Warren pleads with his lover to stay with him, with Emmylou Harris providing sympathetic backing vocals. The lyrics in this song gave the album its title. "Will you stay with me to the end, when there's nothing left but you and me and the wind?"
"Rub Me Raw" - This is Warren's great blues song, with Joe Walsh providing scorching slide guitar. If anyone has a right to sing the blues, it's Warren Zevon. However, this song is filled with Warren's dark humor, and is also guaranteed to get your feet tapping.
"Keep Me In Your Heart" - This is Warren's fond farewell to his fans, friends and loved ones. Keeping with Warren's wishes, I will not end this with something sappy or maudlin. I will say that the memory of Warren Zevon's songs will stay with me for the rest of my life.
on November 12, 2004
I'm not a professional reviewer, just a humble fan of good music. I've read all the reviews, both professional and customer. We own this album, and we love it.
I'm appalled by the level of cruelty in some of the reviews; yes, Warren Zevon was a hard-living, even hedonistic musician - as so many are! And yes, he probably smoked himself into his final inescapable predicament. But here is a man who didn't just lie down and stop living. He fought pain, medication-fog and despair to produce one last work for family, friends and fans. For that reason alone, it is worth owning, as a testament to courage and the will to live.
Warren Zevon's music has never been for everyone. Those of you who never liked him, won't like this album either, I'm sure; but don't be so self-righteously cruel in your reviews. None of us is perfect. This album has a wide spectrum of musical flavors; most of us will find something we love on it. Many of the songs, given the circumstances, make me cry everytime I hear them.
I'll just mention my two favorites on the album: I agree with many of the reviewers that the closing song "Keep Me in Your Heart" will haunt you for a very long time. I also think the ballad "Please Stay" reveals his fragility of mind and voice; his voice wavers, misses notes, but the emotion evoked will overwhelm anyone but the hardest-hearted. This man was facing his own mortality, but mustered enough strength to live his life to the last day.
Bravo, Z-man, wherever you are now on the other side. You've inspired some of us. I, for one, am going to take your advice from now on, and "enjoy every sandwich!"
on September 9, 2003
I've been crying and laughing, laughing and crying for the last hour or so. Warren's VH1 special just went off. I know of no other public figure who could or would grant his fans/customers such intimate access to his life during a time like this. Nor can I think of anyone else who could face his fate with such bravery and graceful acceptance.
Now I'm listening to "The Wind". Knowing the circumstances behind the album's conception makes it an emotionally tumultuous listen. But one doesn't need to be familiar with the backstory to appreciate Warren's swan song. Introspective, intimate, personal, mournful, moving, beautiful, melodic, raucous, raw, irreverent, courageous...it's all in this final masterpiece, the album of a lifetime. You'll hear a man saying goodbye to those he loves and cares about, and maybe even to us. What you won't hear is a man feeling sorry for himself. Pride, ego, call it what you will...Warren is too tough for that.
Mr. Zevon will leave behind an unequalled legacy of left field anthems and smiles on the faces of all who were lucky enough to hear them. "The Wind" is not only a worthy addition to his canon of musical brilliance, it is a necessary one. Thank you for sharing with us, Warren, and God bless you.
Like the brilliant Freddy Mercury before him, Warren Zevon knew he, too, was going to die soon. And like Freddy Mercury, Zevon poured his last bit of life into his final work, "The Wind". You can read whatever you like into Zevon's lyrics on such reflective songs as "Dirty Life & Times", "Numb As A Statue", "The Rest Of The Night", "Rub Me Raw" and his most powerful piece "Keep Me In Your Heart". Whatever conclusion you draw, one thing still remains: Zevon's death will leave an expansive hole in the music business, a business that has sadly become a greedy, adolescent beauty pageant contest. Zevon added much needed insight, humor and a unique take on life that most musicians could only produce in their dreams. To me, there are only two possible equals left: Randy Newman and Tom Waits. "The Wind" gets five stars from me because it's Zevon's final work. The cd itself is crammed with guest appearances by Springsteen, The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty. Zevon does justice to Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and many of the songs remind you of all of Zevon's talents with my favorites being "Numb As A Statue" and "Keep Me In Your Heart". Overall, I think I liked "Life'll Kill Ya" of his last three recordings, and that cd is no less prophetic and sardonic than "The Wind". R.I.P. 1947-2003.
on September 11, 2003
Prior to watching the Vh-1 special just before the release of this album, I can't say that I knew much more about Warren Zevon than "Werewolves of London" and that he'd written a song with Bruce Springsteen back in the 70s and that he appeared on David Letterman and that he sang about death in with dark humour. So I can't claim that I've been a lifelong fan and am overwhelmed with grief at Warren's death. I'm sure that longtime fans sort of resent people like me jumping on board because of the hype around Mr. Zevon's illness and death. I can't blame them for that.
But that being said, this is a fine, fine album- a true gift for his fans both old and new. While it's impossible to consider the music here without the context in which it was written and recorded, it would be a great CD even without the sad events that inspired it. The fact that Mr. Zevon was dying only adds to its complexity. This will be a regularly played CD for a long, long time in my house and car.
My favorite tracks are towards the beginning of the CD- "My Dirty Life And Times", "Disorder in the House", "Numb As A Statue", "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (ALMOST too painful to listen to, but bearable because you know it's somewhat tongue-in-cheek) and "Keep Me In Your Heart"- all finely written and performed songs. The guests supplement the music but in no way distract from it. Springsteen's voice is recognizable but clearly a background vocal, and his guitar solos are scorching. I was surprised that an artist as dark and cynical as Mr. Zevon seemed to be (superficially, anyway, if you didn't bother to look deeper, which I didn't) would release such a heartfelt and emotional CD. It's by no means sentimental, but occasional bit of lyrics or the obvious physical pain in Zevon's voice will still bring tears to your eyes. At the same time, it maintains the edge and the humour that you'd expect from Warren Zevon. And oddly (or appropriately) it never directly mentions death.
Don't avoid this album because you believe that the attention and raves it's getting are due only to Warren's illness and death. Certainly it wouldn't get nearly as much hype, and the news of his death undoubtedly helped with sales. But this album stands on its own and comes strongly recommended. And I can imagine that it could offer some strength and inspirtation if and when we are aware of our own impending mortality.
Sleep well, Warren Zevon. I'm sorry that I only discovered you at the very end, but I'll keep listening for a long time.
on December 10, 2004
"The Wind", Warren Zevon's last CD, some may argue, wouldn't have sold as many copies if the news of his impending demise hadn't been known, but that shouldn't take away from the fact it's a fine CD. I don't know if it will make him any new fans but for the Zevon fans out there, it's a wonderful parting gift. His voice falters at times but the dark and humorous Zevon songwriting is present. 'Numb like a Statue' and 'Dirty life and Times' are particularly good, in my opinion. The inclusion of 'Knockin' on Heaven's door' at first seemed a bit 'over the top' but I must admit it does work and is a fine rendition of Bob Dylan's classic. Known more for his quirky songs, I'm always struck how well he writes the ballads. "She's too good for me" is quietly moving. If you're a Zevon fan, or not, I would highly recommend this CD to you.
By the way, I wanted to mention that Mr. Zevon died of Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Exposure could have happened as early as childhood and laid dormant for decades and decades. Hopefully, with his passing, the public will become more aware of this terrible disease. His son, Jordan, is now a spokesman for the asbestos diease awareness organization (ADAO).
on September 13, 2003
I didn't pick up on Warren Zevon until about five years ago when I was following the making of Dwight Yoakem's movie "South of Heaven West of Hell". Somehow or another, this lead me to Warren's website and into his world. Needless to say, it swallowed me whole and not long after I picked up his anthology "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", "Life'll Kill Ya" came out and blew me away. That album alone meant a lot to me because at the time I was having some health problems and wasn't quite sure how I was going to come out of it. As nervous and scared as I was at the time, "Life'll Kill Ya" helped me get through it all with a smile and still remains one of my favorite albums ever.
When I heard that he was terminally ill I cried like a baby. This was the day after I had introduced my girlfriend to his music on a road trip from St. Louis. After getting the bad news, both "My Ride's Here" and "Life'll Kill Ya" took on different meanings to me as I'm sure it did many of his other fans. Then I heard that Warren was heading back into the studio (given only three months to live, mind you) to work on another album. For some reason or another, this did not suprise me. For the last year, I have been awaiting "The Wind" with an odd mixture of anticipation and sadness. When the day finally came, it was well worth it. From the country-tinged "Dirty Life and Times" (featuring Dwight and Billy Bob on back-up) to the album's heartwrenching closer "Keep me in your heart" you'll be hard pressed to find a better piece of work not just this year, but ever. I've been listening to it virtually nonstop for the last two weeks and it just keeps getting better. "Disorder in the house" has that down and dirty feel to it that would make it a perfect party tune and there's some impressive guitar work by Bruce Springsteen. After one listen to "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" you'll forget that anyone else ever recorded this classic. "Numb As A Statue" stands alone as my favorite track. It's very reminiscent of Warren's earlier stuff (think Excitable Boy) and the guitar work by David Lindeley is phenomenal.
Yes, at times Warren's voice is a tad weak, but this does not hurt the album. If anything, it adds to the overall experience and will let you know what a fighter he was.
Warren Zevon may have left this world Sunday night, but what he left behind will make sure that he is kept in everyone's heart. While I find it somewhat aggravating that it took his illness and death to finally get him some of the recognition that he deserved, it's still comforting to know that more people will finally see the greatness that is Warren Zevon. THANK YOU WARREN
on September 26, 2003
The clock was racing while these songs were written and recorded. But impending doom helped Warren Zevon get so much press that I even read he was the son of a Russian gangster who moved to Chicago. That sounds like a rougher version of his life than what was told in the song "Mama Couldn't Be Persuaded" in which his granny pleaded, "Daughter, don't marry that gamblin' man" on a Warren Zevon album released in 1976. Back then, Zevon was singing, "They'd all be offended at the mention still, if they heard this song, which I doubt they will. . . . They all went to pieces when that bad luck hit: stuck in the middle, I was the kid." Even then, he had Waddy Wachtel on guitar, David Lindley on fiddle, and John David Souther and Jackson Brown were singing harmonies for that song.
David Lindley might be a little more famous on VH-1now, for being in the recording studio for the TV documentary when Zevon said "I like to see the blood drain from Dave's face" just before the song "Numb as a Statue." David Lindley is playing lapsteel guitar on that song in 2002. Then Bruce Springsteen came into the studio around Christmas to do electric guitar & background vocals for "Disorder in the House." Way in the background, I think Springsteen was saying "I was wondering why in hell myself about the Lhasa Apso." I don't buy as many CDs as I used to, but the Lhasa Apso thing convinced me that I spent my money wisely when I bought "The Wind." I can't think of a more brilliant line than:
"Even the Lhasa Apso seems to be ashamed."
I needed to have the CD liner notes to figure out how to spell it so I could look Lhasa Apso up in the dictionary to see if Americans even had that kind of pet the year I bought my dictionary and headed for college. I don't think so, unless there were a few rich people that thought having some exotic creature from Tibet as a pet would give them more comfort than the typical dog or cat. Maybe my problem is that I didn't buy a dictionary the last time I was in California, if that makes any difference. Anyway, it's in a short verse:
"Disorder in the house
It's a fate worse than fame
Even the Lhasa Apso seems to be ashamed"
For a song about a state of mind, the few items it contains about wealth, like "I just got my paycheck," seem to be swallowed up by being in "the land of the free Where the less you know the better off you'll be." I'll call this a great song.
The first song on the CD, "Dirty Life And Times," is another "living in a four-letter world" song. With Warren Zevon taking the lead, it sounds just like him, singing about the kind of troubles that even rich people can have. His shadow's casting him into lonely times winding down, and having spent twenty years of his life fighting a drinking addiction only to lose it to the self-destructive smoker's habit is about like "Now they'll hunt me down and hang me for my crimes If I tell about my dirty life and times."
Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" has some beautifully melodic instrumental parts. It was a wonderful choice for this album. The rest of the album provides a variety of songs that work well with the people that help out. Seven people are doing background vocals on "Prison Grove," along with five instruments, for a group sound. Jorge Calderon does Spanish vocals on "El Amor De Mi Vida" and co-wrote seven of the album's songs with Warren Zevon. The VH-1 special documentary showed Jorge doing a lot to get the album recorded. Once the basic instrumental parts of "Disorder In The House" were recorded, he is seen patting Warren Zevon three times on the knee just before the lead vocal part is supposed to come in. The problem of precisely when certain things are supposed to happen are as important in music as in other aspects of life, and drummers who are on a different beat keep showing up in odd places to say the least. Knowing when to start is part of getting to down to the verse where "The big guns have spoken And we've fallen for the ruse."
The fun party on "The Wind" CD is with the help of Tom Petty and Mike Campbell on the song, "The Rest of the Night." This CD is not all sad songs, but one of the saddest sounding voices in popular music, Emmylou Harris, was there for the song, "Please Stay." I'm glad she is on the album, since she has a voice that I like listening for in duets, the Trio, and gospel blends in the country music mode. She still sounds like she cares. The instrumental solo that sets the mood for "Please Stay" is by Gil Bernal on saxophone, which was not what I was expecting when I bought a Warren Zevon CD, but it grabs the song like it has its own kind of music to play, and every note sounds like he knows what he is doing.
Joe Walsh gets to play slide guitar on "Rub Me Raw." This is the kind of blues that I have been expecting from Warren Zevon since I bought a Hindu Love Gods CD on which he was singing, "wang-dang-doodle" and "Tied down with battleship chains Fifty foot long with a two ton anchor." The guitar part on "Rub Me Raw" sounds just like Joe Walsh, as I hope anyone who remembers "Rocky Mountain Way" will agree.
"Keep Me in Your Heart" is a simple little song that ought to stay in the mind of anyone who hears the whole album and remembers it as an event. Smile is the (one) rhyme for awhile.
on September 15, 2003
This is not Zevon's best work. Actually, no one album managed to pull together a substantial fraction of his best work, which is probably part of why he never made it as big as his less-talented contemporaries. As an album, _The Wind_ is of decidedly mixed quality, uneven and ragged.
And yet I can't listen all the way through it without tears coming to my eyes. Heck, I usually can't get past his "Knockin on Heaven's Door", which isn't even half way in.
For raw emotional power there is simply no competition with this album. Part of that of course is that it is Zevon's musical epitaph. But another big part of that is that this is an album that had to be ragged and uneven. The jagged edges of the songs give it an authenticity that cuts open your skull and pours the lyrics straight in. These are songs that could only have been sung by a dying man. _Werewolves of London_ era Zevon couldn't have done this. _Transverse City_ Zevon couldn't have done this. It would have rung false, so much purple poseur prose. No, it is only _The Wind_'s breathless, unsteady Zevon who can actually sell the apalling melodrama of death in his lyrics.
This isn't a great album. But it is precisely by not being a great ablum that it manages to be a truly extraordinary one. The rough edges bring us life and death as they are lived and experienced, one unsteady note at a time, from the roguish first to the resigned last beat.