It’s Friday again, and it’s time to flashback. I missed last week as I was in the midst of a midterm marathon, but I’m coming back with one of my favorites. In January of 1978, Warren Zevon released his classic album Excitable Boy. Zevon is one of my favorite artists, combining an unmistakable rock and roll structure with folk song type lyrics. My dad showed me him when I was younger, and what I enjoyed most was his ability to paint a vivid and detailed story with such few words. So let’s take a look at an often overlooked album by an under-appreciated artist.
To be honest, they aren’t the best. He’s got a cool voice, very gruff tone, but he doesn’t have the range a lot of solo artists do. However, what he lacks in vocals he makes up for in his lyrics. All the tracks tell impressively intricate stories in an elegantly simple way, and most of the stories are kind of out there. Take, for example, the title track. “Excitable Boy” tells the story of a boy that keeps doing increasingly worse things, followed by the excuse that “he’s just an excitable boy”. It starts out with him spilling a pot roast on his chest, who of us hasn’t? I won’t ruin the song, but it escalates pretty quickly from there. Overall I’d have to say the vocals are nothing to write home about, but you’re gonna want to pay attention to what he’s singing.
The instrumentals on this album are pretty great. A couple notable names helped in recording this album, with Jackson Browne playing guitar in many of the songs, as well as John McVie and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac appearing on the track “Werewolves of London” (on bass and drums respectively). The studio helped to put together a very tight back band for Warren Zevon, who conducts the whole show from behind the piano. Each song has similar instrumentation, but each manages to be distinctly different from the one before it.
The album is only 30ish minutes, so it probably loses points for that. However, it’s an album that you can listen through start to finish, all nine songs.
Every Track. (Except maybe “Veracruz”)
This album is sort of a hidden gem to anybody that didn’t grow up with it, and I recommend taking a look if you’ve got thirty minutes to kill. Til next week (probably).