Review: “Warren Zevon” (Reissue)


It was 1976.  A warm breeze stirred up pages of a discarded newspaper along Sunset Boulevard.  People seemed a little restless.  The radio played Peter Frampton, Paul McCartney and the goddamn Eagles.  Outside a nondescript recording studio, a man walked out and lit a cigarette, the flickering flame reflected in his eyeglasses.  The world was about to meet Warren Zevon.

Warren Zevon is considered by many people his debut but although it wasn’t his first album, it’s the one that put this hardboiled singer-songwriter on the map.  Linda Ronstadt picked up his “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and “Mohammed’s Radio” while most of L.A.’s rock royalty (Jackson Browne, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys and Henley-Frey from the goddamn Eagles) appeared on this masterpiece.  Nothing wimpy about this music – the hero of “Carmelita” is all strung out on heroin and “The French Inhaler” is one of the nastier fuck-off songs this side of Bob Dylan. 

Rhino has issued an incredible 2-CD version of Warren Zevon; the second disc is packed with outtakes, alternate tracks, live versions and demos.  The early take here of “Join Me In L.A.” takes the sheen off Jackson Browne’s production, sounding closer to the punk rock that would soon blossom over in NYC.  “Carmelita” isn’t as desperate as the final album version and “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded” appears as a live radio cut for rock powerhouse WMMS in Cleveland.  It’s all very terrifying, enlightening and life-enhancing.  Even in its original version, Warren Zevon is a masterpiece.

MP3: “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”

MP3: “Carmelita” (1974 demo)

MP3: “The French Inhaler”

MP3: “Join Me In L.A.” (Take 2)

Warren Zevon official website

2 Responses to “Review: “Warren Zevon” (Reissue)”

  1. Any overlap with the demos on the “Preludes” set that came out a couple years ago? That was a tasty set of tracks.

  2. Not to my ears … the second CD follows the order of the original album and the first four tracks are Warren’s piano demos or band demos. For my money, the real meat is the early takes that play rough with these well-known songs. Also check out Ken Shane’s excellent review on Popdose:

    30 Days Out

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