on 23 September 2003
When someone you love dies, it would be insensitive to criticise the things they did yesterday. So, when The Wind found such a timely release (or untimely, depending on your point of view!) at the point of Warren’s farewell, I was concerned that I would be forced to spout only good things about an album that would probably prove to be dour and morbid. I can only slap myself for thinking this way.
Thankfully, there was no need for the expected sentimental hygiene, despite a few early wobbles over the opening track. From there though, Zevon plays with our feelings at a time when his must have been on the rack. Consequently, we are exposed to an emotional tug-o-war that typifies not only this album, but also his whole career. Certainly, Disorder in the House, The Rest of the Night and Numb as a Statue do not appear to have come from the pen of a man on Death’s door and even reflective numbers such as She’s Too Good For Me, El Amor De Mi Vida and Please Stay take a sober but typically Zevon perspective on life. Whilst Keep Me in Your Heart is a heartfelt, hat-tipping farewell, it would appear that he found Dylan’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door an appropriate sentiment on his own position.
Never one to walk a straight path, it seems that his heady mix of satire and gloom is still as refreshing and rewarding at the end as it was when he emerged from the shadow of the Everly Brothers all those years ago. In death, he may make many more fans of the curious, but the real travesty is that those who have known and loved him will be deprived of the prospect of yet more.
It’s a great finale and Warren Zevon will be sorely missed. “Enjoy every sandwich”.
on 18 September 2003
If you're looking for an epitaph full of self-pity and wallowing, don't look here. Warren went out the way he lived: chronicling the dark side of our existence as well as the redemption that we all strive for, writing literate songs that reach out and demand your attention.
There's an astonishing range of tempo and mood here, considering Warren's condition: from the all-out rocker "Disorder in the House", with Bruce Springsteen letting rip in the background, to the gentle farewell of "El Amor di Mi Vida".
On the menacing bar-room blues of "Rub Me Raw", Joe Walsh digs deep into his memory for guitar work he's not achieved since he was with the James Gang, and Warren's voice takes on a sandpaper swagger as he dishes out the vitriol.
Picking out "Knocking on Heaven's Door" to cover makes you wonder if he's having a last laugh, or if, just once, the emotion of what he was attempting finally got through to him.
The album's final track, "Keep Me in Your Heart", is as perfect a valediction as anyone could wish for. His voice sounds a little tired and strained on this, the last track he recorded, but the intensely personal nature of the song and the sincerity are what matter, and what work.
It's a hard album to listen to sometimes, with the sadness of his passing so fresh, but it's an album I'm proud to own and look forward to enjoying for many years to come.
on 25 October 2003
Anyone who saw the recent documentary on his last days and the making of this album will want to buy this wonderful set of songs. In a time when you really have to look hard for someone worth listening to and most music is designed to open your wallet, here are songs to open your heart. Intelligent, humane, defiant and touching, he has allowed us share the journey to "sleep's dark and silent gate". I loved the documentary comment after Springsteen produces a blistering solo on Disorder in the House, Zevon says "hey, you really are him!". I should be so brave....
on 9 September 2003
I'd been anticipating the release of this album with some trepidation considering the circumstances. What could well have been a sombre, sentimental, introspective album is by and large a cracking up-tempo, eclectic offering. The ballads seem genuinely autobiographical but seem more poignant than ever because of his condition. Apart from the only cover (Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door”) the songs are either self-penned or co-written with old cohort Jorge Calderon). The superstellar guests making contibutions include Springsteen, Henley, Cooder, Walsh, Petty, Harris (Emmylou not Rolf), Yoakam, Browne and Keltner. These are not token appearances either but significant contributions to both the sound and feel of the album without stealing the limelight.
The album opens up with the country-tinged "Dirty Life and Times" featuring Cooder on guitar and Dwight Yoakam and Billy Bob Thornton on background vocals.
"Disorder in the House" is a straight rocker featuring Springsteen at his best both vocally and instrumentally.
Is the inclusion of Dylan's "Knockin on Heaven's Door" Zevon's dark sense of humour at its most wicked? Who knows, but he pulls it off with some aplomb delivering an excellent rendition which ends with him pleading for Heaven's door to "Open up for me".
The rocker "Numb as a Statue" is classic Zevon and features David Lindley on lapsteel guitar.
"She's Too Good For Me" is a ballad about broken relationship.
On the atmospheric "Prison Grove" Ry Cooder adds southern-swamp licks as only he can.
The ballad "El Amor De Mi Vida" has Zevon and Calderon alternating on vocals using English and Spanish respectively.
The simple rocker "The Rest of the Night" is reminiscent of Zevon 20+ years ago.
The slow ballad "Please Stay" features Emmylou Harris on backing vocals and the plaintive sax of Gil Bernal.
Joe Walsh turns in an scorching slide guitar on Chicago blues-like "Rub Me Raw".
For me, however, the final track "Keep Me In Your Heart" is really the album's crowning glory. A heartbreakingly beautiful track guaranteed to leave a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat.
As for whether this is his best album I'm afraid I'll pass on that one but it's certainly up there with the best of them. If five stars means indispensable, excellent, exceptional then yes "The Wind" has certainly earned them on merit.
on 12 October 2003
A poignant glimpse into a man's perplexing psyche and the grim reality that his own mortality is literally being challenged to death.
Bearing that in mind, Zevon records a haunting last work that's not only reflective, introspective, and at times, even a little humorous; albeit with tongue firmly inserted in cheek.
He successfully closes the final chapter of his life with beauties such as "Disorder in the House," a slightly campy tune that sheds light on his fatal condition with words like: "There's a flaw in the system, and the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down." Metaphors and similes aside, it's a stunner just like "Keep Me in Your Heart," a heartfelt good-bye wrapped-up in light yet bittersweet sentiment with words like: "You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse. Keep me in your heart for awhile."
Overall, I liked this CD a great deal, yet due to the sensitive subject matter, 4-stars seemed worthy -- posthumously appropriate for a man who clearly had a lot more to say.
on 18 September 2003
I won't dwell on the background to the making of this album I think most people know that by now.
The joy of Warren Zevon was that he made great records but never took himself too seriously. Critics often said he wrote "hilarious" lyrics - well they were, not not in a "laugh out loud" kind of way. They were pointed, ironic and if you were in tune with his humour you know exactly what he meant.
Despite knowing "the end was nigh" this writing style still continues through this album and its very refreshing not to focus on death in a gloomy way.
Some of the songs are very touching - particularly "Heaven's Door", right at the very end in the backgound Zevon can be heard plantively singing "Open up for me?" you can't help but be moved.
Likewise the last song "Keep me in your heart..." asks to be remembered but acknowledges that all things must pass as the line ends "...for a while." Its a touching and brave way to end your last album.
In between there are a couple of rockers with Springsteen and Petty and if you listen carefully to the lyrics they are certainly upbeat but with a twist.
So is it any good. Yes it is - and I would recommend buying it, because of that and to support the Zevon family (don't download it). His records have never sold many copies and he has been criminally undervalued in the music business. Its not as good as "Life'll Kill You" an outstanding album that took on more meaning once his illness was made public but better than a lot of the stuff in the charts above and below him at the moment.
So why four stars...one reason...and its a small reason...on albums such as these with so many guest stars tracks can become a little overcrowded as people try to make their mark. Occasionally this does happen, its just different from previous albums that have a more sparce production. It does not ruin the record but occasionally is detracts a little from the music.
Buy it, enjoy it and maybe investigate some of his earlier recordings, you won't be disapointed. So long Warren "Your Ride arrived..." you will be missed.
I heard this album in its first week of release, which was around the time of Zevon's anticipated passing. There was, understandably, a tendency among reviewers to exalt "The Wind". It is still difficult to listen to it without being moved, yet Zevon maintained his ability to combine sober delivery with an unpredictable sense of humour. It is also difficult to listen to it without looking for references to mortality and there are many of those if you're determined to find them. But is "The Wind" really so good or were the reviewers just being sympathetic?
In truth, Zevon had been on a roll before this. He was already battling illness when he made the superb "My Ride's Here" and its predecessor, "Life'll Kill Ya" is no less impressive. "The Wind" is a remarkable achievement under the circumstances and his gift for wit and poignancy remain but it is not quite as good as those earlier albums or indeed some of the others. But it's character does stand apart. He was joined by a stellar cast on "The Wind" but the whole show comes across as someone inviting his mates down for a farewell party.
"Disorder In The House" is aptly-named, an anarchic rocker featuring a screwy guitar solo from Bruce Springsteen, whose backing vocal sounds as if it was recorded while he was being throttled. Meanwhile, Joe Walsh's trademark guitar work on "Rub Me Raw" is sublime. Otherwise, Zevon generally copes well regardless of the company. His voice struggles here and there, most obviously on "Please Stay", yet because it's Zevon you're never quite sure whether he's hamming it deliberately.
It's a distant cry from "Excitable Boy", the late 1970s album on which he tended to observe others. This comes from a more introspective muse. "The Wind" is well worth buying, but don't neglect his earlier work.
If a bomb had dropped on the studio when Warren Zevon was recording this his wonderful swansong "The Wind" then we not only would have been deprived of this resolute, bitter sweet, funny and tender album but also it would have cut a swathe through nearly all the key stalwarts of the US music scene of the past thirty years including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Ry Cooder, Don Henley, Emmylou Harris, Joe Walsh and Jackson Browne. It was possibly the greatest assembly of rock royalty in the same studio. But more importantly it was a mark of true respect to the great Warren Zevon that all these great musicians were queuing up to pay their dues and give the great man a VIP sign off before he approached Saint Peter's Gate and "keys to the kingdom". Warren Zevon had of course reached the end of the road having been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2002. Yet the "The Wind" is not some form of extended mawkish introspection it is an unsentimental and often cold realisation by Zevon of his many faults and missteps, his inability to start anew and a deep look into the mouth of death by a man reflecting on his humanity through his songs.
The highlights come fast and thick. Thus you have Springsteen's blistering guitar solos on the rocking "Disorder in the house". the wonderful poignant cover of Dylan "Knockin on heaven's door", the wearingly beautiful "She's too good for me" with background vocals by the Eagles pairing of Henley and Tim Schmidt and the bluesy "Prison Grove" marked by a superb atmospheric slide solo from Ry Cooder. The fantastic determination of Zevon to cock a snoop and to heed the words of the reprobate bard from Cwmdonkin Drive not to go "gentle into that good night" is summarised on "The rest of the night" where he shouts "Why stop now, Lets party" and "Me tired? Well boo-hoo". And yet he follows this rambunctious song with the slow jazzy ballad "Please stay" with beautiful backing from Emmylou Harris acting as a counterpoint to his own determined but fragile vocal combined with a aching saxophone from Gil Bernal.
Inevitably you are drawn like a magnet to the final song on the album. I'm sorry but I can't be objective about this one; it is the fond farewell from a great singer to his family, friends and fans and we can do him no greater service than ensure that this wonderful song echoes down the years. It's not a man feeling sorry for himself but one who has royally entertained us, made us laugh and cry, who is coming to terms with his life's work, and the end of his life and asking us to raise a glass in his honour.
"Shadows are falling, and I'm running out of breath / Keep me in you heart for awhile / If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less / Keep me in your heart for awhile.
Like Dylan's "Not dark yet" it is one of those rare great songs marked by dry humour about our departure from this mortal coil. This album generated huge acclaim just before Zevon died in September 2003 and became Uncut's album of that year just pipping the equally poignant Emmylou Harris album "Stumble Into Grace". Yet more recently in the UK Zevon's last album has begun to slip from view. That is a huge shame because while we all throw around the term "musical genius" with reckless abandon on "The Wind" the late great Warren Zevon truly deserved this epithet.
on 31 August 2003
"If you don't know what to write, then write what you know" runs the old adage, and so Warren Zevon - diagnosed with inoperable cancer last summer and given months to live - wrote about mortality and farewells on The Wind, the album that will inevitably be his last.
This is not to say that the album is mawkish (in fact, it marks a return to form after last year's disappointing My Ride's Here); it only highlights poignancy in lines such as the opening lyric "Some days I feel like my shadow's casting me" that could previously have been dismissed as 'merely' clever. The inclusion of Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" is evidence of Zevon's black humour and sense of irony rather than maudlin sentimentality, even if the listener can't help but be moved as Zevon implores said door to "open up for me".
Although supported by an all-star cast - Bruce Springsteen is especially strong on "Disorder In The House" - this is definitely Zevon's show, and it is in the slow songs he particularly excels. "Please Stay", featuring a beautiful Gil Bernal sax solo, and "El Amor De Mi Vida", Zevon's farewell to the woman he loved and lost, are as effective slices of heartache as anything this consummate balladeer has committed to record.
Zevon's condition may have rendered his voice weak throughout, but The Wind is a strong entry in his catalogue and will not disappoint either long-time fans or those who, after he's gone, are curious about the obituaries overuse of the word "genius".
on 26 October 2013
I'm so grateful to have discovered Warren Zevon. His words and stories and music come together beautifully, he makes me laugh, he can make me cry, I literally hold my breath in Frank and Jesse James so that I don't miss one note of his piano playing. What a pianist!! The Wind won 2 Grammys I believe. He was held in such esteem that it just takes a glance at those famous musician friends who helped him, to see how much he was respected and loved by them. I love this CD, the songs cover all that he was, cynical, funny, profoundly observant, fearful, incredibly talented and thank God he just kept on till the end, what a brave man. A genius with words, as good as Bob Dylan.