WARREN ZEVON, THE WIND (ARTEMIS): When one of pop music's greatest satirists, Warren Zevon, was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer last summer, and given about three months to live, he shrugged off the grim news. "I'm okay with it," he said, "but it'll be a drag if I don't make it till the next James Bond movie comes out."
A year later, the 56-year-old most famous for his 1978 hit single Werewolves of London has survived for both another 007 flick and the release of The Wind, which he began recording shortly after his diagnosis.
As one might expect, the album is the most emotional and direct of the performer's career. "Please stay," Zevon softly sings across a sparse backdrop, "Two words I've thought I'd never learn to say."
Other poignant tracks include a love letter to an ex and two songs that directly address his own death: the closer Keep Me in Your Heart and a reading of Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door, which all but eclipses every other version of the oft-covered classic.
Zevon does not fail to deliver some sly, loose rockers, spiked with his famously acerbic wit. A sample from the rollicking opener: "I'm looking for a woman with low self-esteem/To lay me out and ease my worried mind/While I'm winding down my dirty life and times.
Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakam, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Billy Bob Thornton, Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner and T-Bone Burnett all make low-key appearances on the album (mostly on background vocals), a testament to the love and respect accorded Zevon by his peers. A.
WADE TATANGELO, Times correspondent