Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy (1978 us, remarkable folkish groovy rock, 2007 remaster and expanded)

Despite his many affiliations within Los Angeles’ session scene, Warren Zevon was a struggling songwriter who was going nowhere in a hurry when his pal Jackson Browne convinced Asylum Records to take a chance on signing him.

With Browne at the helm, Zevon gave birth to a pair of albums — his self-titled endeavor and its follow-up Excitable Boy. Taken together, they gave him the means, for better or for worse, to live a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, at least temporarily. Admittedly, 30 years after the fact, both collections sound a tad dated, forever tethered to the ’70s by the sort of glossy sheen that typically was affixed to singer/songwriter efforts from the era. Still, there’s no denying the potency of Zevon’s formula, which refreshingly injected a twist of biting satire into the more romantic inclinations of his peers.

Although it was, in actuality, Zevon’s third endeavor, Excitable Boy had the look and the feel of a sophomore effort. By Browne’s own admission, the collection was constructed from its predecessor’s spare parts, and although they were exquisite specimens — both Werewolves of London and the title track had been set aside and saved — the fact remains that there was less unity amongst the set’s contents. Nevertheless, it’s hard to quibble with the songs themselves. 

Here’s an indication of Excitable Boy’s strength: Six of its nine tracks were redeployed to form the basis of Zevon’s greatest hits retrospective A Quiet Normal Life. Of the remaining cuts, only the deliciously funky, but ultimately lightweight Nighttime in the Switching Yard could be considered filler. The other two selections — Tenderness on the Block’s gently optimistic message from a father to his daughter and Veracruz’s mournful depiction of the casualties of American imperialism — are equally worthy contenders.

That’s quite a testament to Zevon’s capabilities, especially considering that the rest of Excitable Boy was filled with his widely recognized tales of a predatory ladies’ man (Werewolves of London), a vengeance-seeking vigilante (Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner), a self-destructive antihero (Lawyers, Guns and Money), and a battered, bruised, and ultimately doomed relationship (Accidentally Like a Martyr).

 Although his later efforts undeniably contained a more cohesive narrative — a product of the maturity that middle age brings as well as the focus that arrived once he overcame his dependence upon alcohol — it arguably is difficult to find a more iconic collection of songs within his canon. Recently reissued with a quartet of bonus tracks — including a haunting rendition of Tule’s Blues (a personal account of the dissolution of his marriage) and the string-draped Frozen Notes (an equally sad reflection upon lost love and loneliness) — Excitable Boy still stands, in spite of its flaws, as strongly, proudly, and defiantly as it ever has
by John Metzger
1. Johnny Strikes Up the Band (Warren Zevon) - 2:51
2. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner (David Lindell, Warren Zevon) - 3:52
3. Excitable Boy (LeRoy Marinell, Warren Zevon) - 2:41
4. Werewolves of London (Waddy Wachtel, LeRoy Marinell, Warren Zevon) - 3:31
5. Accidentally Like a Martyr (Warren Zevon) - 3:44
6. Nighttime in the Switching Yard (Jorge Calderón, David Lindell, Waddy Wachtel, Warren Zevon) - 4:21
7. Veracruz (Jorge Calderón, ZevonWarren Zevon) - 3:31
8. Tenderness on the Block (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon) - 4:01
9. Lawyers, Guns and Money (Warren Zevon) - 3:30
10.I Need A Truck (Outtake) (Warren Zevon) - 0:56
11.Werewolves Of London (Alternate Version) (Waddy Wachtel, LeRoy Marinell, Warren Zevon) - 3:40
12.Tule's Blues (Solo Piano Version) (Warren Zevon) - 3:13
13.Frozen Notes (Strings Version) (Warren Zevon) - 2:03

*Warren Zevon - Lead, Harmony Vocals, Piano, Organ, Synthesizer
*Jorge Calderón - Harmony Vocals, Spanish Vocals
*Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar - Guitar, Percussion
*Russ Kunkel - Drums
*Karla Bonoff - Harmony Vocals
*Jackson Browne - Guitar, Harmony Vocals
*Luis Damian - Jarana
*Kenny Edwards - Bass
*John Mcvie - Bass
*Mick Fleetwood - Drums
*The Gentlemen Boys (The Gentlemen Boys Consisted Of: Jackson Browne, Jorge Calderón, Kenny Edwards, J. D. Souther And Waddy Wachtel) - Backing, Harmony Vocals
*Arthur Gerst - Mexican Harp
*Bob Glaub - Bass
*Jim Horn - Saxophone
*Greg Ladanyi - Bells
*Rick Marotta - Drums
*Jeff Porcaro - Drums
*Linda Ronstadt - Harmony Vocals
*Leland Sklar - Bass
*J.D. Souther - Harmony Vocals
*Manuel Vasquez - Requinto
*Waddy Wachtel - Guitar, Synthesizer, Harmony And Backing Vocals
*Jennifer Warnes - Harmony Vocals

1969  Warren Zevon - Wanted Dead Or Alive
1969-76  Warren Zevon - Preludes Rare And Unreleased Recordings (2007 release)

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