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Mr. Bad Example

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4

Artist: Warren Zevon
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: October 1991

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

Since the mid 70's, Warren Zevon has written and performed great, memorable rock songs presenting himself as a nihilist trouble maker. He has also written touching, sensitive ballads. Mr. Bad Example is easily Zevon's best record between 1987's Sentimental Hygiene and 2000's Life'll Kill Ya. He has fun flouting societal conventions but also shows his gift for a moving ballad. The fact that Zevon hasn't had a hit since 1978's rock classic filled Excitable Boy LP adds to Zevon's mystique as a crank who doesn't give a damn anymore.

Mr. Bad Example has a lot of songs that are great fun, with Zevon gladly playing the bad boy. Angel Dressed In Black is a skewed love song. Zevon sings about "sitting on the sofa, suckin' a bowl of crack." He's worried that his lady, who hasn't come home, might have been arrested or attracked, but he's too screwed up to go out and look for her. Jeff Porcaro's drums and Waddy Wachtel's guitar keep the exciting rock song moving so the focus isn't too tight on Zevon's pathetic tale. Zevon follows with the title track. The sound of a joyful marching band accompanies the tale of a con man who gleefully ruins people, using techniques he developed early when he was an altar boy stealing the children's fund. Finishing Touches is an angry rock song about the end of a relationship which Wachtel gives an appropriately raw, tough sound. Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead is surreal fun with Zevon's cheesy, chirpy keyboards.

For all his cynicism, Zevon has depth and feelings. Searching For a Heart is one of the best songs Zevon has ever written. Over lush backup harmonies, Zevon sings with winning vulnerability of a quest for love so strong that ,"you can't stop it with a gun." Suzie Lightning, about missing a lover who lives an exciting globe trotting life, is a little sickly sweet. I prefer the similarly slow but more soulful Renegade, which is just Zevon's piano and a simple drum beat on the verses but reaches a certain grandeur on the chorus. Zevon wistfully sings about being a rebel who doesn't want to grow old gracefully. Amid the serious emotion of much of the record, Heartache Spoken Here is a welcome diversion, a pleasant country rock song offering help to others in pain, with harmonies from Dwight Yoakam.

Mr. Bad Example is a very good record with good hard rockers and ballads, funny and serious songs delivered with Zevon's distinctive personality.



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