Just when I thought it was safe to be bored: the best of Warren Zevon

Here’s to an unmitigated asshole, a drunkard for too many years who terrorized wives and children. On paper the songwriting credits and literary alliances (Thomas McGuane, Carl Hiassen, Ross MacDonald) bespeak a fealty to the terse, unsentimental, and the macho with which I have even less time now than I did when I discovered his work in the early 2000s. Yet here we are, celebrating a catalog that captured a fascination with the idea of redemption rather than finding redemption — don’t let Warren Zevon fool you; he was an unsentimental singer-songwriter who treated bathos like sobriety. This tension gives ballads like “Looking for the Next Best Thing” and “My Shit’s Fucked Up” their tension. His musical chops — rare for an L.A. lifer — put him leagues beyond Henley-Frey and Browne. He was an excellent pianist and a first-rate lead guitarist, not a combination often seen in rock, and before someone mentions Steve Winwood, please keep in mind that his cover of “Back in the High Life Again” goes deeper than Winwood’s original. Best to speak of him in the company of Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman.

His best albums? 1982’s The Envoy and 1987’s Sentimental Hygiene, the latter where R.E.M. prove they could’ve been a helluva back up band if they’d relaxed enough.

1. Looking for the Next Best Thing
2. Trouble Waiting to Happen
3. Back in the High Life
4. Excitable Boy
5. Werewolves of London
6. The Envoy
7. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
8. A Certain Girl
9. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
10. Desperados Under the Eaves
11. Detox Mansion
12. My Shit’s Fucked Up
13. Ain’t That Pretty At All
14. Lawyers, Guns and Money
15. Splendid Isolation
16. I Was in the House When the House Burned Down
17. The Factory
18. Disorder in the House
19. Let Nothing Come Between You
20. Disorder in the House
21. Even a Dog Can Shake Hands

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