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Warren Zevon's body of work is a good bit more diverse and intelligent than you might imagine if you only know his music from the radio; while his relative hits (Werewolves of London, Excitable Boy, Lawyers, Guns and Money) play more like novelty songs than anything else, his best albums display a melodic sophistication that never gets in the way of his desire to rock out, and a lyrical perspective that's unusually literate, witty, and brutally cynical. As one might expect, A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon focuses on the artist's best known stuff from his tenure at Asylum Records, and leans more towards Crazy Warren tunes (like the above-mentioned trio) over superior if more difficult material like The French Inhaler or Frank and Jesse James, with no rare or unreleased material for completists. It doesn't even honor the hits as well as one might hope (the remastering is a bit on the flat side, and Lawyers, Guns and Money appears in a radio edit that deletes the final verse), and there isn't a single song from Stand in the Fire, Zevon's superb live album. But you do get the most famous songs, which are invariably worth hearing (his own hits and a couple tunes that were made famous by Linda Ronstadt, though Hasten Down the Wind is curiously absent), along with a few pleasant surprises, including the incendiary Play It All Night Long and one of Zevon's finest meditations on life in L.A., Desperados Under the Eaves. A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon will satisfy those with a casual interest in the artist, but for a better one-stop introduction to this songwriter's body of work, try I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (An Anthology). ~ Mark Deming
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