Warren Zevon's self-titled 1976 album announced he was one of the most striking talents to emerge from the Los Angeles soft rock singer/songwriter community, and Linda Ronstadt (a shrewd judge of talent if a sometimes questionable interpreter) recorded three of its songs on two of her biggest-selling albums, which doubtlessly earned Zevon bigger royalty checks than the album itself ever did. But if Warren Zevon was an impressive calling card, the follow-up, Excitable Boy, was an actual hit, scoring one major hit single, "Werewolves of London," and a trio of turntable hits ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," "Lawyers, Guns and Money," and the title track). But while Excitable Boy won Zevon the larger audience his music certainly deserved, the truth is it was a markedly inferior album; while it had all the bile of Warren Zevon, and significantly raised Zevon's dark-humor factor, it was often obvious where his previous album had been subtle, and while all 11 tracks on Warren Zevon were strong and compelling, two of the nine tunes on Excitable Boy -- "Johnny Strike Up the Band" and "Nighttime in the Switching Yard" -- sound like they're just taking up space. Musically, most of Excitable Boy is stuck in a polished but unexceptional FM pop groove, and only "Veracruz" hints at the artful intelligence of Warren Zevon's finest moments. It's hard to say if Zevon was feeling uninspired or just dumbing himself down when he made Excitable Boy, but while it made him famous, it lacks the smarts and substance of his best work.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming