When Jackson Browne came calling in 1975, LA singer/songwriter Warren Zevon had just about given up on his musical dreams, having relocated to Spain with his new wife. All that was to change, however, with this Jackson-produced album the following year, which established Zevon as one of the finest songwriters of his generation (finally rewarded with a posthumous Grammy for 2003’s The Wind, following his death from cancer). This remastered, expanded deluxe edition of his major label debut, which featured contributions from various members of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, is a timely reminder of this sardonic songwriter as his best, from the Springsteen-esque blue collar rawk of -Poor Poor Pitiful Me’ to the pitch-black humour of the Tom Waits-ean -I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’.
But there was so much more to Zevon’s talent than wry sarcasm: album opener -Frank And Jesse James’ is as straightforward a country epic as you could imagine, while -Hasten Down The Wind’ is a stunningly simple love song and the Dylan-esque -The French Inhaler’ is an elegant elegy to the lost dreams and phonies of Hollywood’s ‘sleazy bedroom town’, and the perfect kiss-off to an ex (‘When the lights came up at two/ I caught a glimpse of you/ And your face looked like something/ Death brought with him in his suitcase’). Indeed, Dylan’s confessional lyric-writing is a key influence, from the downat- heel -Desperados Under The Eaves’ to the rockabilly -Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded’, apparently a reaction to Zevon’s own family life and his father’s heavy gambling, Meanwhile, the heart-rending -Carmelita’ should be required listening for any Ryan Adams fans.
The second bonus CD features alternate takes and demos of the original 11 songs, with stunning solo piano demos of -The French Inhaler’ and -Mohammed’s Radio’, and a world-weary -Backs Turned Looking Down The Path’ the real highlights.