This set has been getting a lot of play of late – New West Records’ 2007 Warren Zevon collection, Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings. Spanning 16 tracks, the collection is culled from pre-1976 material that Zevon’s son, Jordan, happened upon while clearing out a storage space following his father’s death in 2003. From worked up, full-band, demos to Zevon’s solo musings on guitar and piano, like the best compilations of this sort, Preludes provides the listener with a rare vantage point – that of a window into the early bones of the material.
I once described Zevon’s 1976 debut as the perfect companion for driving the length of Sunset Blvd, from Echo Park to the Pacific ocean. I stand by that, as his work, both explicitly and subliminally, has Los Angeles crawling all over it. The good, the bad and the ugly. One of the nastier bits on Zevon’s debut is “Join Me In L.A.”, and the “Take 2” demo, found on the expanded reissue, may very well be, thematically speaking, the definitive version. Here, Zevon’s solicitation sounds more like a dare than ever. Invitation be damned. The production feels raw, exhausted, seedy.
Preludes presents the track in an altogether different manner – that of Zevon alone with his guitar and harmonica. Whereas the final version comes off like a slice of late night 70s coke-groove, complete with back up singers, bouncy keys and sax solos, the demo presents the song as more of a barfly folk-manifesto. “Cause I found something that’ll never be nothing. And I found it in L.A.”