Warren Zevon's three new reissues
By Jim Caligiuri,
1:45PM, Thu. Apr. 5, 2007
By the late Seventies, when Warren Zevon had come into the national consciousness with Excitable Boy, "singer-songwriter" had become a dirty word, thanks to the milquetoast offerings of the James Taylors and Joni Mitchells of the world. But Zevon changed all that. He sang about murder, desperation, espionage, detachment, and excess with unswerving wit.
Following his passing in September 2003, there were rumblings of a Zevon box set. While that idea seems to be currently on hold, Rhino has reissued three of his albums, with now-obligatory bonus tracks. What is most heartening to his fans is the appearance of Stand in the Fire, a live set recorded during a five-night stand at L.A.’s Roxy in 1981, and The Envoy, a 1982 studio effort, neither of which have been previously available on CD. The third is the Jackson Browne-produced Excitable Boy, home to some of his best-known songs including “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” and that hit about werewolves. Extras include an alternate take of “Werewolves” and outtake "I Need a Truck,” a 50-second a cappella rant that reveals, "I need a truck to haul my Percodan and gin," as well as one to "haul the womens from my bed.”
Stand in the Fire is a treasure for its portrait of Zevon as rocker. It's a fair representation of his songwriting career up to that point, including a fervent “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” that is nearly as wild as his in-song persona.
The four extra tracks match the unwound passion of the original disc with a muted “Hasten Down the Wind."
The Envoy divided both critics and faithful with some decrying it as one of his weakest, while others hailed it as an overlooked masterpiece. It possesses a couple of intense moments, including the moody title track and a surprisingly sweet "Let Nothing Come Between You," but it never coalesces into a force the way some of Zevon’s other work does. An appropriately raucous “Wild Thing” is among The Envoy’s four bonus tracks, which are likely for serious devotees only.