Warren ZevonThe Wind (Artemis)
I hear dead people. Specifically, Warren Zevon, 56, whose last album was released days prior to his death from lung cancer. For the life of me, though, I can't tell if The Wind
is a final bid for immortality or some kind of dirty joke. On his cover (some might say ill-chosen) of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Zevon's cracked warble demonstrates rare vulnerability, the singer calling, "Open up, open up!" over the chorus at song's end. Am I supposed to laugh? Cry? Zevon and his longtime writing partner Jorge Calderon have better success with their own compositions, heavy designated hitters including Bruce Springsteen, Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, and Jackson Browne helping out on a range of barnburners and ballads. Zevon and Springsteen are a two-man wrecking crew on "Disorder in the House," while Joe Walsh enlivens the bluesy "Rub Me Raw" with his stinging slide. Other songs are a mixed bag ("She's Too Good for Me"), but there's enough here to remind us how the cantankerous songwriter became a legend in his own time. The lyrical standout remains the farewell ballad "Keep Me in Your Heart," Zevon singing, "Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house, maybe you'll think of me and smile. You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse. Keep me in your heart for a while." Such sentiments would haunt any lover. Now pardon me while I pull myself together.