There are some albums where you can actually hear the substances that went into their creation. This album is much like Hotel California and Rumours and pretty much every LA rock album recorded in the late 70s, in that they all sound big, flashy and possibly suffered a little from having too much money thrown at them. Perhaps the least remembered of all these albums, is Warren Zevon’s self titled effort, partly because it wasn’t the global smash hit that his contemporaries enjoyed, perhaps because it doesn’t suffer from the production overload quite so severely, but the main reason I can hear is that it’s just too damn smart to appeal to a mass audience.
That was always Zevon’s problem and why he never found a truly international audience of any real size – The vast majority of people just don’t like being entertained by someone obviously more intelligent than they are, hence Zevon never really got the recognition he deserved during his lifetime and he became the very definition of a cult artist.
Okay, so apart from mirroring its surroundings, what lasting impression does this fine example of 70s rock singer-songwriter talent leave you with? It’s certainly well written and considerably more mature and cynical than anyone else at the time with the exception of Randy Newman and maybe Steely Dan. It’s certainly an album with as high a concentration of great works as any release by Zevon, with rockers, ballads and genuinely heartbreaking tunes all jostling to be noticed, loved and adored. While there are many of Zevon’s most durable songs to be found on this album, perhaps its most iconic moment is “Desperados Under The Eaves”, where you can literally hear the cocaine piling up in drifts as our hero rides into the sunset.
On reflection, it’s probably fair to say that this is Zevon’s finest album, as it is more consistent than the more renown Excitable Boy and of generally broader appeal than anything else recorded after that. While there are others with bigger sales and more airplay, this album guarantees him a place among the elite writers of American popular song.