Warren Zevon always had a unique perspective. He earned it. After his first album bombed, Zevon found work writing commercial jingles. If that doesn't do it to you, nothing will. His return was marked by a self-titled album which contained several classic songs including "Hasten Down The Wind" and "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" (both covered by Linda Ronstadt with the latter being a hit). "Warren Zevon" was followed by another excellent album, "Excitable Boy." This album brought Zevon, briefly, to the forefront thanks to the hit "Werewolves of London." "Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School" arrived in '80. But despite the clever title and excellent songs, the album failed to register. It would be the better part of the decade before Zevon would equal that effort with "Sentimental Hygiene" a candid, uncompromising look at his battle with alcohol.
Zevon spent the '90s operating under the radar. In '03 he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma (a rare form of lung cancer). With help from friends and admirers, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam and Tom Petty, Zevon recorded "The Wind." Shortly after the album's completion Zevon passed away (9/7/03). He was 56.
Warren Zevon's two best albums are his second, "Warren Zevon", and third, "Excitable Boy." Along with Elvis Costello, Zevon was one of the few successful, late '70s practitioners of offbeat lyrics on unconventional subjects. However, his point of view was firmly grounded in the L.A. experience. That just jacks up the aggression. "Werewolves of London" his best known song is on "Excitable Boy" but that album also contains the darkly humorous "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner" and the fierce "Lawyers, Guns and Money." Both songs are superior to "Werewolves" though probably not as commercially acceptable. Just a notch down are two '80s releases "Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School" and "Sentimental Hygiene."
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is a forty-plus song collection that breaks Zevon's career into the two labels he recorded for - Asylum and Virgin/Giant. It goes deep into his catalog.
"The Wind" has a grace under pressure - terminal illness and death - feel to it. And despite all the extensive outside help it is still Zevon's album. It opens agreeably with Folk-Rocker "Dirty Life & Times" but it's the next song "Disorder In The House" and "Rub Me Raw" that really make an impact. There is also a vibrant version of Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," an appropriate selection. Zevon goes out on a high note.