‘The Envoy’- Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon is one of rock n’ roll’s all-time greatest outlaws. He is the stuff that legend is made of. On this record, ‘The Envoy’, released in 1982, he would find himself in bizarre circumstances. Due to poor record sales, Zevon’s record label would go on to drop him after this record’s release. Listening to this record, it’s astonishing that the sales for it were so low. After all, it doesn’t much differ from the path that ‘Excitable Boy’ and ‘Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School’ had paved. This is a path that Zevon had mastered by this point in his career. Something that, of course, would make him one of rock’s greatest artists and songwriters.

Even though this is a fact of the record, perhaps the strength of its songs weren’t as high as the two aforementioned records overall. Still, this record opens with the title track, which is one of Zevon’s most rollicking tracks. Zevon seems unsettled on this track (not that he was ever a model for stability); his subject seems to be getting underneath his skin. As is typical on Zevon records, he goes on to lighten the mood with one of his funniest songs, “The Hula Hula Boys”. Zevon was always many things. He was charming; charismatic; maniacal; heroic; pathetic; hilarious; miserable. All of these characteristics shine throughout his catalog and this record is certainly no exception to the rule. This contrast of character is evidenced mid-record with “Let Nothing Come Between You”, one of his sweetest tracks, followed by “Ain’t That Pretty at All”. While being an absolutely hilarious track, you can’t help but think of what a maniacal man wrote it. One other standout track to note on this record is “Looking for the Next Best Thing”, which only adds to the puzzling reality that this record was a poor seller. This song is about as perfect of a radio-ready track that Zevon ever recorded and it’s an excellent pop song. It’s unbelievable that it wasn’t a smash hit. It has all of the necessary ingredients to have been one of 1982’s biggest hits.

Warren Zevon crafted yet another damn solid record this time around. No, it doesn’t flow quite as well as his self-titled record, ‘Excitable Boy’, or ‘Bad Luck in Dancing School’, but it’s still packed full of great songs. This is also a bittersweet record for Zevon fans, because it’s well-known that he slipped into an alcoholic nightmare after the release of this record, before heading into what was a necessary stay at a rehab center. The thing about Zevon that needs to be understood is that his crazy, maniacal behavior is part of what made him such a genius even if it wasn’t always best for his health. This is what made him such an outlaw; a simultaneously lovable and despicable character. It does make one wonder if his out of control alcoholism is what hindered some of this record from fitting together as effortlessly as some of his past material. Regardless, when Zevon is at his best (and he is at certain moments on this record), he is an absolute force that is rivaled by practically no one else.

4/5

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