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The Envoy (Remastered)

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Album Review

While moderation was never Warren Zevon's strong suit, his efforts to clean himself up in the early '80s resulted in two of his finest albums, 1980's literate but corrosive Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School and the following year's explosive live set Stand in the Fire. It seemed as if the wired chaos of Zevon's personal life had been channeled into his art on those LPs, but after another bout with the bottle and another attempt at sobriety, Zevon tried another approach at merging his music and his life on 1982's The Envoy. On The Envoy's best songs, Zevon tackles his dangerous appetites head on; "Charlie's Medicine" is a chilling requiem for a drug dealer who used to sell him dope, "Jesus Mentioned" is a spare but curiously moving meditation on the death of Elvis Presley, who "went walking on the water with his pills," and the ragged but right "Ain't That Pretty at All" is an unlikely but powerful recovery anthem in which he howls "I'd rather feel bad than not feel anything at all." When Zevon confronts his own demons on The Envoy, the album is intense and compelling stuff, but unfortunately there aren't enough of these moments to prop up the rest of the set, which is smart and literate but not especially exciting. Novelist Thomas McGuane co-wrote "The Overdraft," a hard-charging rocker that unfortunately doesn't make much sense, while the languid "The Hula Hula Boys" plays like a joke in which the punch line got lost, and the two love songs, "Let Nothing Come Between You" and "Looking for the Next Best Thing," manage to sound at once heartfelt and like lesser variations on themes he'd covered with greater strength before. The Envoy would prove to be Zevon's last album for five years after he took another stumble into addiction, but while it's an often brave and ambitious disc, the high points don't quite redeem its weaknesses.

Biography

Born: 24 January 1947 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Few of rock & roll's great misanthropes were as talented, as charming, or as committed to their cynicism as Warren Zevon. A singer and songwriter whose music often dealt with outlaws, mercenaries, sociopaths, and villains of all stripes, Zevon's lyrics displayed a keen and ready wit despite their often uncomfortable narrative circumstances, and while he could write of love and gentler emotions, he did so with the firm conviction that such stories rarely end happily. Though he frequently worked...
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The Envoy (Remastered), Warren Zevon
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