Genius: Best of Warren Zevon
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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.
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
Top customer reviews
This disc represents that material well. It won't perfectly please everybody. Myself, I'd like to see more from "Transverse City." But I'm glad that "Mr. Bad Example" is represented by the three pieces from 1991. It was one of his strongest efforts but has been neglected (and may now be out of print).
This disc has Zevon the would-be sociopath ("Mr. Bad Example"); the ironic rocker ("Detox Mansion" and others); the straight-ahead rocker doing some classic material ("A Certain Girl"); and the tender but never saccharine balladeer ("Searching for a Heart" and others).
I have most, not all, the discs that the material here came from, but am glad to have this collection to play, too. I suppose I could burn a CD with my own favorites, but I don't for a moment begrudge Zevon and his family (or Rhino Records) the price of the collection. It's a fine reminder of all the unique music that Warren Zevon gave us over the last 2 1/2-plus decades, in his recordings and live performances. I can only say, again, thank you, and add that this irreplaceable artist will be deeply missed.
For the record, the following is the collection's list of songs, followed by their year of release.
"Poor Poor Pitiful Me" (1976)
"The French Inhaler" (1976)
"Hasten Down The Wind" (1976)
"Werewolves Of London" (1978)
"Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner" (1978)
"Excitable Boy" (1978)
"Lawyers, Guns And Money" (1978)
"Interlude No. 1/Play It All Night Long" (1980)
"A Certain Girl" (1980)
"Looking For The Next Best Thing" (1982)
"Detox Mansion" (1987)
"Reconsider Me" (1987)
"Boom Boom Mancini" (1987)
"Splendid Isolation" (1989)
"Raspberry Beret" (1990)
"Searching For A Heart" (1991)
"Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead" (1991)
"Mr. Bad Example"(1991)
"I Was In The House When The House Burned Down" (2000)
Most recent customer reviews
The Best Of Zevon would really need to be a double or triple CD set.Read more
Love It, and the world misses you WZ.