Warren Zevon – Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

The worst sins a “Best of” collection can commit is to include a brand new song, and to present alternate versions of favorite songs. This album escapes the first, for sure, and maybe the second. The liner notes hint that at least one song may not be the regular album version, but honestly, I can’t identify any deviations.

What I Think of This Album

This is basically a career-spanning “Best of,” omitting only the final album (The Wind), which post-dates this and which you should buy separately anyway. You get twenty-two songs, presented in chronological order. There are the expected four songs apiece from Warren Zevon and Excitable Boy; three from Sentimental Hygiene; three from Mr. Bad Example; and then the rest are culled from eight other albums. If you want more, there is a double-disc best of out there, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (An Anthology), which has twice as many songs – including live tracks and rarities –  but only goes through 1995’s Mutineer. The liner notes are by novelist Will Self, one of Zevon’s many literary admirers and friends (along with Tom McGuane, Hunter S. Thompson, Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Carl Hiassen). This is an excellent collection, and arguably the only Zevon a casual fan needs.

The Best Thing About This Album

I guess I have to choose a song not on any of the studio albums that I own (or have owned and then sold – sorry, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School and Transverse City). I think “Mutineer” is wonderful, though “I Was In the House When the House Burned Down” is a close contender.

Release Date

October, 2002

The Cover Art

The back cover – depicting a Zevon-esque human skull – is the kind of macabre joke I would expect from him, as this album arrived on the heels of his cancer diagnosis (although he had used the skull image as early as Transverse City). Why he pulled his punches this time is a mystery. The actual cover appears to show the skull of a London werewolf (not that I know what a werewolf’s skull looks like); the Sherlockian pipe and monocle suggest as much. I would have preferred the human one.

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