(Zevon Fan Web Page editor's note: the opinions expressed are those of the author.)
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by Fred Petrovsky

Forget Exile on Main Street, Ziggy Stardust or London Calling. Don't show me anything from the Sex Pistols or Elvis Costello. These powerful 1970s cultural touchstones don't have anything on Warren Zevon (Electra, 97E-1060-2), Zevon's self-titled 1976 sophomore effort that is, from where I sit, the best rock and roll album of the 70s and maybe of the last 20 years. I won't hear any arguments. Zevon went on to moderate fame in the 70s and 80s, mostly on the strength of his only real hit, "Werewolves of London," which appeared on his 1978 album, Excitable Boy. He still has a loyal but shrinking following. Recently, he's sunk to wearing a tie while subbing for Paul Schaffer on Late Show with David Letterman. Zevon studied piano under Igor Stravinsky and cut a 1969 solo album (Wanted Dead or Alive) that deservedly tanked. He fell back to composing advertising jingles and toured as the Everly Brothers' pianist. Then he really hit the skids, dropping out and exiling himself to Spain. Enter another 70s icon, Jackson Brown, who secured a recording contract for Zevon. Of course, it helped that Brown produced the album. The result: perfect. Terrific. Unbelievably listenable. There isn't a bad song on the album. And thankfully it's still available on CD. The songs on this album have been snatched by others, including Linda Ronstadt ("Poor, Poor Pitiful Me") and Dwight Yoakam ("Carmelita"), but none have improved on the originals. The tracks on Warren Zevon hold some of rock's finest music, most marked by Zevon's honest, intelligent piano and rich baritone vocals. It helps that he's backed by a veritable Who's Who of California's finest 70s studio musicians: Waddy Wachtel on guitar, Bob Glaub on bass, Larry Zack on drums and David Lindley on banjo, fiddle and slide guitar. And with Brown at the helm, a slew of other rock legends make contributions: Phil Everly, John David Souther, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Bonnie Raitt. Warren Zevon is populated by losers, drug users, boozers, villains and heartbroken kids from broken homes. The tunes are unyielding, alternately angry and heartfelt. A eulogy to outlaws ("Frank and Jesse James), a paean to sodden love ("Carmelita") and an ultimate 70s party song ("I'll Sleep When I'm Dead") never grow tiring. All are reckless and devastating. Every song tells a story, such as a verse from "Desperados Under the Eaves":

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing
Until I pay my bill

This modern master of California rock has faded, never really receiving his due. He hasn't toured in two years. It doesn't matter. Warren Zevon belongs in every serious music collectors CD library. This album is accessible, buoyant and hummable. It's not just Zevon's best album, it's the best the 70s album period.

Fred Petrovsky
McMurry Publishing
1010 E. Misouri
Phoenix, AZ 85014
(602) 395-5850 fredp@mcpub.com

This article first appeared, in an abbreviated form, in the November 98 issue of
Attache (USAirways) magazine.    It appears here by arrangement with the author and is not available for reprint in any other form or location without permission from him.

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