Warren Zevon: The Wind

Warren Zevon: The Wind

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Album: The Wind
Label: Artemis

A year ago, Warren Zevon went public with the news that he'd been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and he joked that it would be a shame if he didn't get a chance to see the new James Bond movie. Die Another Day came and went, but Zevon still hasn't, and in spite of a prognosis that gave him only months to live, he poured his energy into one final album. The result, The Wind, sounds cranky, cynical, sentimental, and mordantly funny–in other words, like a good Warren Zevon record. There's no ignoring the subtext, however, even aside from The Wind's cover of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." "Please Stay," a desperate lament with beautiful accompaniment by Emmylou Harris, gives the album its title and its most piercing phrase, as Zevon asks a lover to stay until "there's nothing left but you and me and the wind." Death has long been at the back of Zevon's songwriting, and now that it's unavoidably at the fore, it's nice to see that it hasn't drained him of his sense of humor. It's hard to imagine anyone else asking for "a woman with low self-esteem" to help him through his final days, or having the skill to put the joke across, as Zevon does on the album-opening "Dirty Life And Times." It's harder still to imagine anyone as capable of shifting so effortlessly into the heartfelt "El Amor De Mi Vida," a song for a lost true love sung with the directness of a man who wants to leave the world with no regrets. Though loaded with guests from Bruce Springsteen to Tommy Shaw to Billy Bob Thornton, the album is Zevon's show from its raucous beginning to its graceful end, the gentle goodbye "Keep Me In Your Heart." As a final note, it fits. Zevon's career has long balanced caustic, almost misanthropic portraiture with a tough-to-hide gentle streak. Without letting go of his bite, The Wind lets the nice guy win.