WARREN ZEVON – ” Warren Zevon ” Classic Album Released May 18th 1976

Posted: June 10, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , ,

warren zevon album

Though only a modest commercial success, the Jackson Browne-produced Warren Zevon album(1976) would later be termed a masterpiece in the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and is cited in the book’s most recently revised edition as Zevon’s most realized work. Representative tracks include the junkie’s lament “Carmelita”; the Copland-esque outlaw ballad “Frank and Jesse James”; “The French Inhaler”, a scathing insider’s look at life and lust in the L.A. music business (which was, in fact, about his long-time girlfriend and mother to his son Jordan); and “Desperados Under the Eaves”, a chronicle of Zevon’s increasing alcoholism.

Warren Zevon was an industry veteran by the time he made his major label debut in 1976. He had toured with the Everly Brothers as their band leader, and was rooming with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975. Jackson Browne had championed Zevon, and produced his first major solo album (his 1969 debut was unsuccessful).

And ‘The French Inhaler’ is an extraordinary song for an artist launching their career. It’s not ambitious stylistically, following the same laid back west coast template as Browne and the Eagles. But it’s a complex song, dispensing with verse/chorus structures and winding its way through a series of jabs at his ex-girlfriend Tule Livingston. Jordan Zevon, Zevon and Livingston’s son, recalled “despite the subject matter, my mom would play that song to me after a couple of glasses of wine and laugh and say: ‘Isn’t that brilliant?’ She knew he was a genius”.

Musically, it’s centred on Zevon’s proficient piano playing, but the magic comes from the backing vocals from Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey. They appear halfway through the word “night” about a minute into the song, and come and go throughout. As much as I’m sometimes ambivalent about their band’s work, the two head Eagles are magnificent here.

Zevon’s music was full of blood, bile, and mean-spirited irony, and the glossy surfaces of Jackson Browne’s production failed to disguise the bitter heart of the songs on Warren Zevon. The album opened with a jaunty celebration of a pair of Old West thieves and gunfighters (“Frank and Jesse James”), and went on to tell remarkable, slightly unnerving tales of ambitious pimps (“The French Inhaler”), lonesome junkies (“Carmelita”), wired, hard-living lunatics (“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”), and truly dastardly womanizers (“Poor Poor Pitiful Me”), and even Zevon’s celebrations of life in Los Angeles, long a staple of the soft rock genre, had both a menace and an epic sweep his contemporaries could never match (“Join Me in L.A.” and “Desperados Under the Eaves”). But for all their darkness, Zevon’s songs also possessed a steely intelligence, a winning wit, and an unusually sophisticated melodic sense, and he certainly made the most of the high-priced help who backed him on the album.”

 

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