Warren Zevon – “The Wind” (2003)

April 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Warren Zevon’s final album, recorded while he was dying of cancer, featuring the song that I would like played at my funeral someday, “Keep Me in Your Heart” (incredibly sad and moving, but without sappiness). This review comes from Fran Fried, Aug. 22, 2003, from the New Haven Register…

Zevon Has the Final Word, and It’s a Strong Wind

So why should things change now that the reaper really is walking up the sidewalk, ready to ring the doorbell for his big date?|

Bcause this is real life — that’s why.

Things did change. Even the most cavalier of wits can’t laugh off the inoperable lung cancer with which Zevon was diagnosed a year ago this coming Thursday. And with death drawing closer (he was too ill to respond to emailed questions for an Associated Press story this week), his final album, which comes out Tuesday, has more than its share of tearjerking references to what’s coming.

But it’s full of abandon and happiness and love and wit, too. In other words, it’s human. And if anything, Zevon’s final words resonate because of that humanity and because of their surprisingly even temperament — though, all the while, it’s hard to keep yours on an even keel when you listen to the album.

How do you not react when you hear Zevon, his husky voice getting weaker, singing Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” as anthemic in its way as “Free Bird”? Or, even more so, when you hear him close the album with the strummer “Keep Me in Your Heart” — when, as “shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath,” he makes the dying plea not to forget him? Incredibly sad, yes, but at least you know Zevon’s not trying to milk it.

And regrets? He’s had a few. “Amor de Mi Vida,” a Latin-tinged piano ballad that’s equal parts John Lennon and Dylan; and “She’s Too Good for Me,” a Latin, acoustic guitar-laced ballad, are about the love he let get away. And the sorrow drips from his voice with each note. And “Stay With Me,” a plea to a lover (with backing from Emmylou Harris), is driven home by the most mournful sax line in the world, from Gus Bernal.

But the emotional flipside of this album assures you this is also a celebration of life, both the absurd and the mundane.

The opening tune is as flip and cheeky as he gets here, as he seeks a woman with low-self-esteem who’ll ease his mind as he winds down his “Dirty Life and Crimes.” “Disorder in the House,” with Bruce Springsteen on guitar and backing vocals, is delivered with as much wide-open gusto as the On the Border-era Eagles. He gets feisty and prickly discussing the realities of his situation on “Rub Me Raw,” a nasty blues slide-guitar progression straight out of “Rocky Mountain Way” (most probably because it’s Joe Walsh himself on guitar). And the twangy “The Rest of the Night,” with Tom Petty and Mike Campbell on board, is a devil-may-care call to party all night.

Like a person whose friends gather around the deathbed, Zevon surrounded himself with his musical pals — Springsteen, Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Ry Cooder, Don Henley, Tim Schmit, Joe Walsh, Petty, Campbell, Jackson Browne, Billy Bob Thornton, John Waite, David Lindley, Tommy Shaw — for this final disc, produced by his longtime best friend, Jorge Calderon. And now he can let go, knowing he did his best.

Fran Fried

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