Various Artists

Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon

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Like many fans, one of the things you can always love about the music of Warren Zevon has been his frequent refusal to play nice. While Zevon could write with tenderness and compassion when the spirit moved him, he was more likely to sound sarcastic, spiteful, venomous, and generally announce (loudly and with enthusiasm) that the emperor was naked given the appropriate subject, and he wasn't afraid to take on his friends and collaborators when so inclined. Given Zevon's recent passing, it should surprise no one that a handful of his friends, family and admirers have assembled a tribute album, but while Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon brims with obvious affection and good will for its subject, in this case that's something of a problem. For the most part, Enjoy Every Sandwich focuses on the kinder, gentler Warren Zevon, and while the artists in question perform the songs with obvious passion and admiration, Don Henley's "Searching For a Heart," Jill Sobule's "Don't Let Us Get Sick" and "Keep Me in Your Heart" by Jorge Calderon and Jennifer Warnes speak of a sweetness that wasn't at all representative of the man's work. And while some artists on-board throw a few more rough edges into their performances -- Steve Earle's nicotine-rasp version of "Reconsider Me," Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt's sharp run through "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," and a minimalist acoustic take on "Splendid Isolation" from Pete Yorn -- even these sound oddly defanged, and there are several flat-out misfires, such as Bob Dylan's poorly recorded meander through "Mutineer," and Adam Sandler's karaoke-style reading of "Werewolves of London." Significantly, the album's two strongest tracks are the ones that truly capture Zevon's wild hair spirit -- an admirably eccentric take on "Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse" from David Lindley and Ry Cooder, and a blazing and noisy assault on "Ain't That Pretty at All" from the reunited Pixies. Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon is the musical equivalent of a testimonial dinner in which a number of folks who knew and loved Zevon share warm memories of their friend. The trouble is, the man who wrote "Play It All Night Long," "Detox Mansion" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" merited something more along the lines of a Friar's Club Roast, in which a little bile got mixed in with the words of love, which truly was the sort of world Warren Zevon wrote about.

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