November 16th, 2004
I have a theme channel on my ReplayTV that records shows that mention the word “Zevon” in their title, actors, or descriptions. A while back it stumbled upon David Letterman with Jordan Zevon and the Wallflowers as musical guests. I watched the recording and quickly discovered that Jordan had put together Enjoy Every Sandwich an album of covers performed by various artists of songs written by Warren Zevon and I immediately pre-ordered the album. I must confess to being a Warren Zevon fan, so it’s pretty easy to assume I’m going to like this album. Amazon had a deal that put the songs in my digital locker before the album was released so I got to check it out before it shipped. Originally, I had planned to post this review the day the album officially released, but life interfered with that plan so here is the review a little late. Some of this album, but not all, is available on iTunes and I’ve provided links to those songs that are available for individual purchase. Download iTunes from Apple to use these.
Much to my delight, I found two new little gems which had never been released before: Studebaker performed by Jordan Zevon, and The Wind performed by Billy Bob Thornton. Studebaker is an old song (written in the late 60s according to a post by Jordan Zevon at the Warren Zevon bulletin board) that was never released. It is the tale of a 35 year old with an old beat up broken down Studebaker. The story is pure generic metaphor that you can easily apply to whatever busted up part of your life you need to. I love it. It’s classic old Zevon tune and metre, the lyrics not quite as irreverant as he got in the 70s, with a modern production. Jordan’s voice suits the song well. The Wind is a song that apparently didn’t quite get finished in time for the album The Wind. It sounds almost as if they did all of the studio work with Billy Bob Thornton singing backup vocals and the song is just waiting for them to record Warren as the lead vocal. A shiver runs down my spine every time I listen to this song.
There are basically two ways to do a cover. One is to repeat the sound and feel of the original. The other is to try to make a whole new interpretation of the song. Personally, I have a preference for the latter. I always liked that Warren’s live performances often had new interpretations of some of his songs. Different songs on Enjoy Every Sandwich fall at different points along the spectrum between these two extremes. Werewolves of London is Adam Sandler doing a straight cover of Warren’s song and it rocks. Personal bias left this song with two strikes. First, it’s not inventive with interpretation as a straight cover. Second, it’s Adam Sandler. Yet, from the introductory guitar to Sandler wailing out “Ahh ooh, Werewolves of London” at the end, it just grabbed me.
Both Lawyers, Guns And Money, covered by the Wallflowers, and Searching For a Heart, covered by Don Henley, were well done covers, but didn’t really inspire me the way much of the album did. Poor Poor Pitiful Me, covered by Jackson Browne with a little help from Bonnie Raitt, hits the sweet spot again. It’s pure “Warren Zevon as performed by Jackson Browne”, but he (and she) hit the mark so perfectly on the song that it’s my favorite version of it now.
Keep Me in Your Heart is a new, string rich arrangement, that starts to head over in the spectrum towards being a new interpretation. There is also a Keep Me in Your Heart [strings only] version of the song with only the string arrangement by Van Dyke Parks. Personally, while I loved the arrangement, it does not stand on its own without the vocals.
The rest of the songs are more new interpretations and I loved them all save two. Don’t Let Us Get Sick was well done, but the style just doesn’t work for me. Bob Dylan’s cover of Mutineer is pure Dylan, but the muddy live recording just left me flat.
Bruce Springsteen’s My Ride’s Here [Live] is pure Boss with a touching dedication to Warren, recorded live several days after Warren Zevon died of cancer. With Spencer’s current fight against leukemia, I can’t help but think of cancer when I listen to Warren’s sounds and especially this dedication. Thunder Road rings about in my head when listening to this version thanks to the backup instruments. Steve Earle and Reckless Kelly’s version of Reconsider Me is a good reinterpretation of the original. Pete Yorn’s Splendid Isolation is in my head more than the original and even more than the excellent live version by Warren.
The two standouts of the new interpretation category for me were Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse by David Lindley and Ry Cooder and the Pixies punked out Ain’t That Pretty at All which I think hits my spirit of the song it better than the original album version. Warren’s phrasing was more subtle and loaded; the Pixies is all attitude and thrash.
Pretty much whenever I go out driving these days, I crank up Enjoy Every Sandwich and work on enjoying every sandwich myself.