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Rhythm & Views

Warren Zevon

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With a release timed to coincide with that of remastered versions of his early albums for Asylum, as well as a goiters-and-all oral-history biography by his ex-wife, Preludes is a collection of early versions of future classics and previously unreleased songs by Warren Zevon, unearthed in storage by his son following his death in 2003.

His friend, admirer and mentor Jackson Browne once called Zevon's music "song noir," because some of his songs feature a razor wit, equal parts humor and pathos; Springsteen once said he was a moralist in cynic's clothing, and that's pretty darn accurate.

Preludes is no place for the beginner: A novice would do better to just pick up copies of Excitable Boy and the self-titled album, both of which are nearly perfect. But for those who already have played those releases to death, Preludes is a rather interesting, if decidedly lo-fi, catch. The early versions of previously released songs are fascinating as blueprints: "Accidentally Like a Martyr," for example, is an almost entirely different song than the one we've come to love, with only the chorus surviving intact. The songs recorded with a full band ("Werewolves of London" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" included) are looser and funkier, less studied than the released versions, while the unreleased songs are nice surprises.

A bonus disc is strictly for hard-core fans only, too. It's an extended radio interview with Zevon circa 2000, when he was doing press for Life'll Kill Ya, along with a trio of songs from that album, including his take on Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life."

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