“Looking for the Next Best Thing” (Warren Zevon Cover)

By Chris Moore:

This is a great Warren Zevon song and I really wish I could have included the solo in the middle! Still, I had a lot of fun learning it and am proud to include a Zevon song in my repertoire. As I’ve seen Jim and Jeff build their list of bands/artists that they’ve covered, I’ve definitely begun writing my own list in my head, and this artist is a big check. I’ll definitely be playing more from him, if I could only decide which song I want to play next. Probably “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”…

“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” (Warren Zevon Cover)

By Chris Moore:

My two-session tribute to Warren Zevon rolls on with what is probably my favorite Warren Zevon song of all-time, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.” You have to know that I love the song if I’m willing to sing it, mid-song swear and all. I’m not quite certain what it is about this song that I find so appealing; I’ve always found the story mysterious and exciting, and the music fits perfectly with the lyrics. I’ve heard conflicting interpretations of the final line, “Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland’s thompson gun and bought it.” I thought it meant she was killed, but I’ve heard others read it as her buying the gun at an auction years later.

Regardless of Patty’s fate, this is one of the big check marks on my Laptop Sessions list. You can look forward to many more Zevon tunes in the future! Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for an all-new session from Jeff, whose “Greenlight” EP comes out on February 24th at fusco-moore.com/store!

“The Envoy” (Warren Zevon Cover)

By Chris Moore:

I expect that most people haven’t heard of this song from one of my favorite songwriters, Warren Zevon. “The Envoy” is the title track from his poorly-received 1982 album that led to his record label dropping him. Supposedly, he found out that he had been dropped by reading the article in a magazine. This, of course, led to a period of drinking and self destruction.

But I really love this album! Perhaps it’s because this is one of those albums that I feel very personally about, as though I’m one of the few to ever really appreciate it. The songs may not be his best, but there are certainly some fun ones, like “The Hula Hula Boys” and “Let Nothing Come Between You.”

Without further ado, here’s my acoustic cover song version of “The Envoy,” a song that is sadly still relevant, over twenty-five years later…

See you next session!

Warren Zevon’s “The Envoy” (1982) – The Deep Racks Report

A Special Edition of the Weekend Review

I think we’ve all heard the term “deep track,” used to refer to songs that do not receive much (or any) commercial radio airplay.  This series is dedicated to brief but focused reports on ALBUMS that do not receive as much commercial or critical attention as they should.

By Chris Moore:

Considerable time has passed since I last dug deep into the racks for a dusty gem, as Cuomo and company might say, to wipe off and take out for a spin.  Inadvertently coming across this record today has proved reason enough to revive the Deep Racks Report.

To suggest that The Envoy is least appreciated of all Warren Zevon albums would be an understatement.  It is the production whose reception resulted in his record label dropping him by the wayside.  It is the release that coincided — not so coincidentally, after he discovered he was unemployed via a music magazine — with a self-destructive run that landed him in rehab.

Some albums that are not as successful as the big-wigs may have hoped are given a second shot in re-release. The Envoy was given that chance…

…twenty-four years after it hit the shelves.

On the eve of its release in 2006, I found it conspicuous that this Zevon record had never been converted to CD previously.  The obvious question was, how bad could it possibly be?

I had my reservations.

Admittedly due in part to my low expectations, I became immediately enamored with these nine tracks.  It is a brief album, to be certain, but in my opinion, there are far too many examples of those releases that suffer from the opposite flaw.  The nine songs that comprise The Envoy are a cohesive set that negotiate the common territory of, well, negotiating the concerns of the singer: love and authority, to name a couple.

While not innovative, these songs are far from pedestrian.  Zevon continues along the same sonic veins that he has established on previous records, adding the uncharacteristically stripped-down, acoustic “Jesus Mentioned” — a preview of what was to come in the latter half of his career — and the unhinged romp “Ain’t That Pretty At All,” which shakes up the formula at the top of side B.

Warren Zevon's "The Envoy" (1982)

Warren Zevon's "The Envoy" (1982)

There are those that might scoff at my self-righteous resurrection of a lost album, mumbling to themselves about how albums are often deserving of their respective fates.  How low must my bar be set that I could admit such a lost and forgotten sample from Zevon’s nearly three decade long recording career?  The answer is: because I’ve heard lots of Zevon lots and lots of times.  I know a good Zevon release from a great one, and I can distinguish between the misguided, the mediocre, and the amazing.

This album leans decidedly towards the latter.

The Envoy has it all.  There is the fantastic, destined-for-the-greatest-hits track “Looking for the Next Best Thing.”  There are the straightforward rockers “The Envoy,” with its clever, then-contemporary political implications, and “The Overdraft,” which voices concerns of a more personal nature.  There are the tongue-in-cheek, tragic (i.e. typically Zevon-esque) tracks “The Hula Hula Boys” and “Charlie’s Medicine.”  And, for good measure, the songwriter reminds us that he’s not entirely jaded with a pair of purposeful, confident, and dare I say even romantic numbers: “Let Nothing Come Between You” and “Never Too Late for Love.”

Equally important to any serious study of The Envoy is the investigation of the songs that didn’t make the cut.  Wisely, Zevon withheld the overly eighties-sounding “The Risk,” a decision that speaks volumes for his clear mindedness regarding album sequencing, even at the worst of times. And it does makes a fun little bonus track, as does his cover of “Wild Thing.”  I would hope there was never any serious consideration paid towards adding this Troggs cover to the lineup, but all that really matters is that it was never included.

Even if these outtakes had been added, there would be no clear reason to excommunicate The Envoy from Warren Zevon’s body of available work.  There would have been less reason to respect it, but the nine tracks that did, in actuality, make the cut amount to a tight, smart album that knows when to crank up to breakneck speed and when to unroll a ballad, where to be sardonic and where to be sincere.

It is with great pleasure that I add The Envoy to my list of “Deep Racks” recommendations.  I hope you enjoy it!  (If you can find it…)