It's been more than three years since Warren Zevon died of lung cancer, leaving behind a three-decade-long legacy of eclectic, uneven, but always entertaining albums. The singer-songwriter had his biggest brush with fame in the late ‘70s with his Excitable Boy album, produced by Jackson Browne and featuring his one bona fide hit, “Werewolves of London.” Now Rhino Records has given new life by re-issuing a remastered version of the Excitable Boy album, one of those legendary “perfect” albums in rock ‘n' roll. From the opener “Johnny Strikes Up the Band,” through the strange amalgam of politics and horror “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” to the b-movie lyrics of “Excitable Boy” and "Werewolves of London”… there is not a single dud on this nine-track collection originally issued in 1978. The reissue now includes four bonus tracks – an a capella oddity called “I Need a Truck,” an alternate version of “Werewolves,” and two other tracks.
In addition, Zevon's hard-rockin' 1980 live album, Stand in the Fire has been reissued, also with four songs not included on the original release, among them the early Zevon piano ballads “Frank and Jesse James,” and “Hasten Down the Wind.” The disc captures Zevon at his manic performance height, crashing through renditions of three Excitable Boy key tracks, as well as some of the best tracks from his other two Electra/Asylum albums of the ‘70s, including “Mohammed's Radio,” “I'll Sleep When I'm Dead” and the Zevon track that Linda Ronstadt once turned into a minor hit, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.”
Finally, Rhino has also released Zevon's last album for Electra/Asylum, The Envoy, marking its first time the album has been available on CD. While a commercial flop in 1982, the disc was critically acclaimed, but would serve as the last recording from Zevon for five years until R.E.M. helped him stage a comeback with Sentimental Hygiene in 1987. In included two of Zevon's best ballads, “Let Nothing Come Between You” and “Never Too Late for Love,” as well as the politically themed title track and the ode to Elvis “Jesus Mentioned.” The reissue also features four outtakes, one an instrumental which sounds like it would have been a great Zevon track if it had been fully developed, and a splinter of Zevon jamming on the classic “Wild Thing.”
For information on these reissues and a forthcoming collection of early Zevon songs and demos, visit www.warrenzevon.com.
Talk about an infectious slam of cheeky rock ‘n' roll!
From “Henrietta,” the opening track of Costello Music which blasts out of the speakers like The Vines with a horn hookup, to the thigh-slapping stroll of the closing song, the skiffling Beatles-esque “Got Ma Nuts from a Hippy,” this is an album of non-stop breezy fun.
With a bevy of bouncing rollicking rhythms, a penchant for early Beatles-ish harmonies and smatterings of keyboards, bells and horns lurking between the chimey bass and guitar work, every track on Costello Music sounds like it was a party to record in the studio.
“Chelsea Dagger” is impossible not to shake to with its pounding drums and do-do-do background vocals. Then there's the Clash-like punkish mania of “The Gutterati?” and the la-la-la silliness of “For the Girl.” A ‘60s surf guitar vibe merged with a backporch twang overflows “Creepin Up the Backstairs” before a machine gun parade of lyrics and handclaps interrupts the retro guitar work. Then it's a foot-stompin' touch of barn-dancin' country guitar for the redneck story of “Vince the Loveable Stoner,” who “sleeps all day and dreams of you.” Later they turn up the amps for the overdrive wall of chiming guitars of “Baby Fratelli” which sounds a lot like the modernized rockin' Beatles sound of Chicago's own The Redwalls.
If you haven't gotten the gist yet, the Fratellis are all over the map on their first major label release, but no matter what musical form they're mining, they do it with a Lennon/McCartney overtone -- and have a lot of fun doing it.
For more information, check www.thefratellis.com.