Friday, December 8, 2023

Various Artists - The Hitmakers Sing Warren Zevon (2018)

Warren William Zevon was born on 24 January 1947 in Chicago, and began his musical career early, forming a duo with his high school friend, Violet Santangelo, called lyme and cybelle. Bones Howe produced their first single, the minor hit 'Follow Me', which was written by Zevon and Santangelo and reached number 65 on the Billboard pop charts in April 1966. A follow-up single, a cover of Bob Dylan's 'If You Gotta Go, Go Now' flopped, and Zevon left the duo, spending time as a session musician and jingle composer. He wrote several songs for his White Whale labelmates The Turtles, such as Like The Seasons' and 'Outside Chance', and another early composition 'She Quit Me' was included in the soundtrack for the film 'Midnight Cowboy' in 1969. His first attempt at a solo album, 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' in 1970 was spearheaded by 1960's cult figure Kim Fowley, but received almost no attention and did not sell well, and so for the next few years he returned to session work with other musicians. During the early 1970's he toured regularly with the Everly Brothers as keyboard player, band leader, and musical coordinator, and he worked particularly closely with Phil, arranging and playing keyboards on his first and third solo albums, 'Star Spangled Springer' in 1973 and 'Mystic Line' in 1975. These small successes were not particularly rewarding financially, and his dissatisfaction with his career and lack of funds led him to briefly move to Spain in the summer of 1975, playing in the Dubliner Bar, a small tavern in Sitges, near Barcelona. By September 1975 Zevon had returned to Los Angeles, where he roomed with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who had at this time become members of Fleetwood Mac. He also collaborated with Jackson Browne, who produced and promoted Zevon's self-titled major-label debut in 1976, which featured contributions from Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, members of the Eagles, Carl Wilson, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt, with Ronstadt later recording many more of his songs. 
'Warren Zevon' was his first album to chart in the United States, peaking at No. 189, and the Rolling Stone Record Guide called it his "most realized work". In 1978, Zevon released 'Excitable Boy', once again produced by Jackson Browne with guitarist Waddy Wachtel, which gained both critical acclaim and popular success. The title tune is about a juvenile sociopath's murderous prom night, and referred to "Little Susie", the heroine of the song 'Wake Up Little Susie' made famous by his former employers the Everly Brothers, while songs such as 'Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner' and 'Lawyers, Guns And Money' used deadpan humour to wed geopolitical subtexts to hard-boiled narratives. Tracks from this album received heavy FM airplay, and the single release 'Werewolves Of London', which featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, was a relatively light-hearted work featuring Zevon's signature macabre outlook, and it reached No. 21 on the charts. This new-found success prompted other artists to investigate his work, with cult rockers The Flamin' Groovies later tackling 'Werewolves Of London', and Jerry Garcia recording a cover of 'Accidentally Like A Martyr' in 1977. Since then all of the other songs from the album have been covered by a variety of artists, and so here is their interpretation of Warren Zevon's 1978 album 'Excitable Boy', with a classic Linda Ronstadt  cover plus one of his earliest songs added to close the post.   

Track listing

01 Johnny Strikes Up The Band (Phil Cody 2014) 
02 Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner (The Escatones 2014)
03 Excitable Boy (Dreadnaught 2005)
04 Werewolves Of London (The Flamin' Groovies 1979)   
05 Accidentally Like A Martyr (Jerry Garcia 1977)
06 Nighttime In The Switching Yard (Dotline 2018)  
07 Veracruz (Casey Brents 2018)
08 Tenderness On The Block (Shawn Colvin 1992)
09 Lawyers, Guns And Money (Derringer 1978)
10 Hasten Down The Wind (Linda Ronstadt 1976)
11 Outside Chance (The Turtles 1966)


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