In this humble writer's opinion, Warren Zevon is the most underrated songwriter of all time. His dark and bizarre sense of humor that he used in life and in lyrics showed the unique way in which he saw the world. Who else would get a diagnosis of terminal cancer and choose to write and record an album (with guest stars like Bruce Spingsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Joe Walsh, and Tom Petty backing him up) with the time he had left? There was nobody in music like Warren Zevon. If one is new to his discography, his third album Excitable Boy comes highly recommended-let's take a closer look at his only platinum release.
The album starts with "Johnny Strikes Up The Band" and the audience is immediately hit with the power of Zevon's dark, throaty voice. Even though it's one of the shorter songs on the record, it still holds its own as a great opener. David Letterman's favorite Zevon number is next, as "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" is guaranteed to give you a macabre ghost tale. No one but Zevon could take underground, unknown, and bloody politics and turn it into a sing-along, fun tune. The shortest song on the album is the title track, which again turns dark lyrics into a rollicking good time. Linda Ronstadt and Jennifer Warnes provide the "woo-ah-ooo" over Jim Horn's delightful saxophone.
The most famous song in Zevon's whole catalogue is certainly "Werewolves of London," which features that simple, catchy three-chord progression over the entire number. John McVie and Mick Fleetwood join Zevon in recording the number, which hit #21 on the American Top 40. The tempo finally slows down for "Accidentally Like a Martyr," which showcases Zevon's classically-trained piano work and Waddy Wachtel's mournful guitar. Zevon strays into disco for "Nighttime at the Switching Yard," which is longest song on the album and unfortunately many fans' least favorite number.
Jorge Calderon sings Spanish vocals for "Veracruz," whose lyrics show Zevon at his most intellectual. The volume continues to stay soft for "Tenderness on the Block" (co-written by Jackson Browne), which the tells the beautiful coming-of-age story from a father to his daughter. The album ends with another three-chord rocker, the popular "Lawyers, Guns and Money"-an excellent closer to an excellent album.