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Genius: Best of Warren Zevon

4.7 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A celebrated rock singer, piano player, and writer with a gift for dramatic, cinematic, and often humorous story-songs, Warren Zevon was born in Chicago in 1947, but primarily raised in California and Arizona, the son of a professional gambler. Warren studied piano as a kid, and played his first L.A. sessions in his late teens. He cut his first sides as half of a duo, then cut a criminally ignored solo album in 1969, and toured with the Everly Brothers band in the early '70s before heading to Spain to take some time off. Meanwhile, Zevon's songs were introduced to millions of rock fans when Linda Ronstadt covered several of them, including "Hasten Down The Wind" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." In 1976 Jackson Browne persuaded Warren to record a new album of his own material, and Zevon's eponymous album for Asylum was a hit with critics who hailed his hard-edged sound and lyrical bite. The Top 40 hit single "Werewolves Of London," from the 1978 follow-up Excitable Boy, expanded his cult following to national proportions. Since then, Zevon has recorded a dozen more albums chronicling the adventure of various colorful characters, himself included. In 1996 we relased the Elektra/Rhino 2-CD I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: An Anthology, covering his career up till then. Now we've compiled GENIUS: THE BEST OF WARREN ZEVON, the definitive single-CD survey of Zevon's very best work up through the present-22 songs that earned him rock 'n' roll notoriety and the respect of his peers.

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On the evidence of this 22-track career overview, it's tempting to call Warren Zevon's oeuvre a monument of pop-music dichotomy. But that assessment would sorely shortchange Zevon's vast catalog of contradictions: the sentimental songwriter ("Hasten Down the Wind") with a nihilistic heart of darkness who makes the likes of Jello Biafra seem more like Raffi by comparison; the shrewd, successful tunesmith nonetheless laboring in service of vintage psycho-whack like "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," "Excitable Boy," and "Werewolves of London"; a man who consorted with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and R.E.M. ("Boom Boom Mancini") and yet who still cheated the devil of his soul; a satirist with the keen eye of a marksman--or Randy Newman, for that matter--who somehow let his own demise get the jump on him, despite having written prescient jollities like "Mr. Bad Example" and Life'll Kill Ya. In short, Zevon walked it like he talked it, peril be damned. If he felt like turning in a straight-up take of the R&B chestnut "A Certain Girl," or lumbering inexplicably through Prince's "Raspberry Beret," only then to turn on a dime and indulge his classical pretenses on "Mutineer" and "Genius," so be it. Zevon just couldn't help himself from living up to this album's modest title. --Jerry McCulley

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Poor Poor Pitiful Me
  2. The French Inhaler
  3. Carmelita
  4. Hasten Down The Wind
  5. Werewolves Of London
  6. Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
  7. Excitable Boy
  8. Lawyers, Guns And Money
  9. Interlude No. 1/Play It all Night Long (Medley)
  10. A Certain Girl
  11. Looking For The Next Best Thing
  12. Detox Mansion
  13. Reconsider Me (Single Version)
  14. Boom Boom Mancini
  15. Splendid Isolation
  16. Raspberry Beret - Hindu Love Gods
  17. Searching for A Heart
  18. Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead
  19. Mr. Bad Example
  20. Mutineer
  21. I Was In The House When The House Burned Down
  22. Genius


Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 15, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Rhino
  • ASIN: B00006LA4I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,450 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on December 14, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Warren Zevon's quarter-century career, now tragically cut short, is difficult to anthologize. Other than a few obvious choices, the novelty single "Wearwolves of London," the absolutely diabolical "Excitable Boy" and the hilarious "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," picking out the best songs from Zevon's large body of work is not easy, especially after the late 1970s when he was at the peak of his popularity. Underscoring that point is the fact that "Genius" contains only six duplicate tracks from the original "Best of Warren Zevon" anthology that appeared in the mid-1980s.
"Genius" is an intelligently selected single-disc best of collection that hits plenty of high points among the 22 tracks. For example, Zevon's best studio album, 1987's "Sentimental Hygene," is represented by four songs ("Detox Mansion," "Reconsider Me," "Boom Boom Mancini" and "Splendid Isolation"). Other highlights include the humorous epic "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," Zevon's R.E.M. collaboration cover of Prince's "Raspberry Beret," a cover of "A Certain Girl" and the south-of-the-border drug saga "Carmelita." The CD booklet contains a full lyrics sheet for every song that was a Zevon original as well as a listing of the players for each track.
Overall, an outstanding single disc anthology from a unique and quirky songwriter who will be very much missed.
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Format: Audio CD
Being generally unfamiliar with the work of Warren Zevon -- outside of his classic late-'70s singles "Werewolves of London" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money," and Linda Ronstadt's fine covers of "Hasten Down the Wind," "Carmelita," and "Poor Poor Pitful Me" -- I was surprised to find that these aren't even the best songs on Genius, a 22-track best-of co-produced by Zevon himself and released by Rhino. Zevon is a criminally underrated singer-songwriter, and since he was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, this retrospective makes for a well-timed and appropriate farewell. (I must also mention the all-too-brief liner notes, which are not so much biography or even career overview, but the measure of an artist's great personal impact on a pair of fans. Droll and affectionate, but never maudlin, you couldn't ask for a more fitting tribute.)
The whole thing is jam-packed with terrific songs, alternately rousing and beautiful, funny and heartbreaking. "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" is a haunting tale of murder and revenge, while "Excitable Boy" is a comical tale of murder that takes aim at society's "boys will be boys" mentality. The celebrity-rehab ode "Detox Mansion" straddles a thin line between cheekiness ("I've been raking leaves with Liza / Me and Liz clean up the yard") and confession ("Well, it's tough to be somebody, and it's hard not to fall apart"). In "Splendid Isolation," he longs for solitude (looking to Georgia O'Keefe and Michael Jackson as role models), while in "Reconsider Me" and "Searching for a Heart," he yearns for a human connection. "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down" is the lament of a hapless loser (a sequel of sorts to "Lawyers, Guns and Money," maybe?), while "Mr.
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Format: Audio CD
This 22 track collection covers all of Zevon's albums (save for 2 live albums and 2 previous compilations). It even includes his one-off project with R.E.M. minus Michael Stipe on the Prince cover "Raspberry Beret." There are brief (but not great) liner notes. The notes fail to tell the story of Zevon's career. Lyrics to each song are included, as are album/song/musician info for each song. The CD was co-compiled by Zevon. If you're new to Zevon this makes a better choice than the excellent 2CD I'll Sleep When I'm Dead from 1996. But long-time fans will find it a handy sampler of some of Zevon's best moments. Let me also recommend these studio albums: Warren Zevon (76), Excitable Boy (78), Sentimental Hygiene (87), Life'll Kill Ya (2000) and My Ride's Here (2002). Also be on the lookout for the live 1980 album Stand In The Fire.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
"Genius: The Best Of Warren Zevon" is the definitive, single-disc compilation of Warren Zevon's music, spanning his entire career to date. "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" kicks off the collection on a strong note, detailing the abuse he took at the hands of dominating women. "Carmelita" is a beautiful ballad dealing with the ugly subject of heroin addiction. This compilation provides ample proof that Warren wrote many classic songs in addition to "Werewolves Of London," his best known song. "A Certain Girl" has always been one of my favorites, even though the song wasn't written by Warren. It appears on a Warren Zevon compilation for the first time. "Raspberry Beret" is a rocking cover version of the Prince song, performed in classic Zevon style. "Detox Mansion" takes a tongue in cheek approach to describing his treatment for alcoholism. "Well, I'm gone to Detox Mansion way down on Last Breath Farm. I've been raking leaves with Liza. Me and Liz clean up the yard." Warren could write heartfelt love songs, as evidenced by "Looking For The Next Best Thing," Reconsider Me" and "Searching For A Heart." In "Mr. Bad Example" Warren describes the virtues of indulging in the seven deadly sins. "I Was In The House When The House Burned Down" finds Warren at his sardonic best, sounding like a cross between Bob Dylan and Hunter S. Thompson. The last song on this compilation describes Warren Zevon's songwriting best - "Genius."

For the record, the following is the collection's list of songs, followed by their year of release.
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