Hurry Home Early: The Songs Of Waren Zevon

Various Artists

Wampus Multimedia, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


I really didn't expect to end up reviewing this disc.

Y'see, it was just a few months ago that I reviewed the Warren Zevon tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich, featuring an all-star cast interpreting some of Zevon's best-known tunes. Thus, while I appreciated my friend Mark Doyon (Mr. Wampus himself) laying a copy of his label's Zevon tribute album on me, I had to ask myself what new insight could possibly be forthcoming from a second such album, similar in many ways, but featuring generally more obscure song choices interpreted by generally more obscure independent artists.

After a couple of listens to Hurry Home Early, the answer hit me like a self-administered whack in the forehead. Tribute albums aren't so much about the artist being honored, or the artists honoring that person. They're about the songs themselves. And Warren Zevon left behind one hell of a songbook.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

By turns caustic, reflective, raucous and brilliantly funny, Zevon used the entire emotional palette to paint bold strokes on his sonic canvas. From the prideful iconoclasm of "Splendid Isolation" to the gentle entreaty of "Mutineer," this disc covers a huge amount of that tonal ground. And thanks to the relatively anonymous names involved, you never get wrapped up in the novelty of, say, Adam Sandler singing "Werewolves Of London." You hear the words, you feel the music, you experience the song, unfiltered by expectations of any sort.

Which allows you to fully appreciate things like Last Train Home imbuing "Desperadoes Under The Eaves" with a rich, determined alt-country swing; the Simple Things giving a jangle-rock kick to "I'll Slow You Down"; Tom Flannery delivering a version of "Boom Boom Mancini" that's as stripped-down and close to the bone as its working-class hero narrative; and The Matthew Show offering a moody, lilting take on "Mohammed's Radio." (Side note: is it just me, or is Simple Things lead singer Jimmy Catlett a dead ringer vocally for Zevon pal Don Henley?)

The other highlight comes near the end, with the one-two punch of Brook Pridemore wrapping his sharp-edged voice and acoustic guitar around the bitter brilliance that is "Life'll Kill Ya," and Robbie Rist following that with a snarling romp through "Mr. Bad Example" ("I'm very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins / I keep a busy schedule, tryin' to fit 'em in / etc."). It's nasty-greasy rock and roll at its very best.

I can't say every cut here is a smashing success -- there are a couple of tries that feel a little uninspired or off-track -- but all in all, it's a very solid set. And the previously unrecorded nugget "Warm Rain" -- a gentle, melancholy ballad presented by Simone Stevens and Warren's son Jordan Zevon -- makes for a welcome bonus ("Dry thoughts for a wine-dark day," goes the best line).

The bottom line is, any songwriter with the balls and chops to rhyme "Spokane" with "naughahyde divan" without missing a beat deserves as many tribute albums as the music world can cook up. Keep 'em coming, boys and girls!

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Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wampus Multimedia, and is used for informational purposes only.