Warren Zevon

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Nov 122008

–Note: Check out the poll on the right-hand side to let me know what type of post you prefer: full album (like last week), artist focus (this week), or general theme (two weeks ago). Though I can’t promise the answers will change what I post – I can’t do more than one full album a month – I’m curious what people like.–

While his contemporaries like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan became famous, Warren Zevon remained under the radar his whole life. Though famous fan David Letterman gave him plenty of air time, “Werewolves of London” was just about Zevon’s only claim to fame. Which in my mind makes him the most underrated songwriter of the last fifty years. Here’s both sides of the man, performer and songwriter.

Warren Zevon – Laissez-Moi Tranquille (Serge Gainsbourg)
I’m sure I’m not the only one who had no idea this was a cover, off of his classic My Ride’s Here album, the cover of which showed some creepy foreshadowing, depicting him sitting in a hearse. A dirty guitar riff propels what sounds like new-wave grunge, with plenty of cowbell. [Buy]

Warren Zevon – Casey Jones (Grateful Dead)
Recorded with David Lindley for the mediocre Deadicated tribute album, they don’t change too much about the music, but for some reason Zevon’s voice is perfect for this. In “Carmalita” he sang about heroine, now he takes a stab at cocaine. [Buy]

Warren Zevon – Jesus Was a Cross Maker (Judee Sill)
Another cover Zevon makes his own, partially due to the fact no one’s heard of the original. Lots of organ here – in fact, it’s all organ. [Buy]

The Warren Zevon Trio – Winter Wonderland (Bernard/Smith)
From a live show he did with Dan Dugmore and Gurf Morlix (there’s a Tom Waits cover he did here). It’s nothing revelatory, but Zevon’s little asides and name-drops. [Buy]

Warren Zevon – Ring Them Bells (Bob Dylan)
Zevon’s most noteworthy Dylan cover occurred on his final album, The Wind. He released the album after learning he had cancer, and only months to live. Which makes his perhaps the most moving “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” ever. It’s not as good outside of the context of the whole album though, and the story behind it, so I picked a different Dylan cover to include (he did many). It’s a live take from 1996. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Accidentally Like a Martyr (Warren Zevon)
In the fall of 2002, with Zevon’s death impending, Dylan returned the favor to his departing friend, rotating four of Zevon’s songs through his set: this, Boom Boom Mancini, Lawyers Guns and Money, and Mutineer (released on Enjoy Every Sandwich). Bob played this one the most though, 22 times in the course of two months. I can’t find the exact quote, but Zevon said that hearing Bob do his songs was a high point of his career or something. [Buy]

Tom Flannery – Boom Boom Mancini (Warren Zevon)
One of my favorite Zevon songs, the original is loud, bold and rocking. Turns out it works just as well in a sensitive acoustic guise though. Read about Mancini’s career, and the death of Doo Ku Kim, here, and then track down the tribute album this comes from, Hurry Home Early. [Buy]

Steve Earle and Reckless Kelly – Reconsider Me (Warren Zevon)
“Reconsider Me” became the title of a recent compilation of Zevon’s love songs for a good reason: it’s beautiful. The drums in this cover overdo it a bit, but Earle’s drawl is perfect. This is off the Zevon album that takes its title from his life advice: Enjoy Every Sandwich. [Buy]

David Lindley and Hani Naser – Play It All Night Long (Warren Zevon)
A live take here I can’t quite source, this is the same David Lindley that Zevon recorded Casey Jones with. The slide guitar intro is incredible, swirling around in your ears as it rises and falls, leading into the jarring opening line: “Grandpa pissed his pants today / He don’t give a damn.” [Buy]

Michael Derning and Mia Arend – Don’t Let Us Get Sick (Warren Zevon)
Hints of Zevon’s lifelong phobia of doctors comes through here and, though one doesn’t like to put biography into music, it’s impossible to not remember how he passed when you listen to this. There’s another cover of this one back at this post. [Buy]

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