Along with his faults as an artist and a person, Warren Zevon had a spotty recording career. But when he was on, he was on. Here are some of the albums that reveal his true talents.
WARREN ZEVON | Asylum, 1976 | This rightly acclaimed debut lays out both the outlaw mystique and the flashes of poetry that would define his career.
STAND IN THE FIRE | Asylum, 1981 | Skip over the better-known Excitable Boy and go instead with this raucous live disc, which includes Excitable Boy’s best songs and finds him at the peak of his wild mood swings.
HINDU LOVE GODS | Giant, 1990 | With a bunch of blues covers and one Prince ringer, this R.E.M. collaboration is the drunkest-sounding session ever led by a man who’d just gotten sober. Now out of print and worth hunting down.
MR. BAD EXAMPLE | Giant, 1991 | Among other things, this underrated garage-sounding disc (also out of print) includes his best-ever opening line: “Sittin’ on the sofa, suckin’ a bowl of crack.”
LEARNING TO FLINCH | Giant, 1993 | His second live album finds him in more reflective solo-acoustic mode, and it rescues the best songs from his spotty cleaning-up period. Also, alas, out of print.
LIFE’LL KILL YA | Artemis, 2000 | Zevon appeared to be settling in for the long haul on this stripped-down creative comeback, which included the prophetic (but still hilarious) “My Shit’s Fucked Up.”
THE WIND | Artemis, 2003 | Sometimes unbearably poignant, sometimes surprisingly upbeat, this is the gem that a dying Zevon produced when he knew the world was listening.