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Saturday, October 16, 2010

212. "Splendid Isolation" by Warren Zevon

Requested by Jeremy Osner.

I could've done this one from memory, guessing at the chords, and I would've been right. I have some interesting memories of Zevon's Transverse City album... it was the first new record by Zevon that I bought, after having been fairly obsessed with Sentimental Hygiene and Excitable Boy for a year or two before it came out. I was actually fairly disappointed with Transverse, but I listened to it a lot anyway. It was a different time, early in my life as a music dork; I had maybe 300 albums as opposed to the several thousand I'd have not too long after, and there were really only 20 or so artists I followed avidly, and I would immerse myself in even the just-okay records by those people. Zevon was one of them. I had just moved away to college and was able to get to decent records stores for the first time, and I picked up the new Zevon at the same time as his incredibly classic self-titled album. The comparison wasn't fair.

I remember the aspects of the record that didn't thrill me, but they don't seem to matter so much now. There were a handful of uncharacteristically frosty, synthy and futuristic numbers (one of which turns out to be pretty good in restrospect, and I get a charge out of the juxtaposition of massive fairlight sounds and Jerry Garcia lead guitar on the title track), and a few tracks where Zevon pitted his normally withering wit against some too-soft targets ("Down in the Mall" and "Gridlock", the latter a waste of Neil Young as a guest guitarist). One song I classed as such, though-- "Networking", a stab at computer culture circa 1989-- actually still mostly makes sense in today's tech terms, which is pretty astounding. The balance of the record is actually terrific. There are some future predictions that didn't pan out ("the war in Paraguay back in 1999"), but he just about nailed the imminent fall of the Soviet Union in "Turmoil", which was probably the first time I heard the term "mujahideen". And then there's this song, which is classic Zevon, and one that I loved enough to name one of my many mid-'90s mix tapes after a line from it: "Goofy, Take My Hand".

I did a straightforward acoustic version of the song, concentrating on the vocal-- I've decided that copping Zevon's style suits me and I'll probably keep doing it, so there's another takeaway perk from having done 39-40-- and decided to spend the balance of the time trying to figure out how to best mic Miranda's cello and give her enough time to get the performance right, as it's her first time recording on the instrument. Shouldn't have bothered... I got the sound I wanted pretty quickly (or at least I think I did; maybe I was just excited to hear, you know, a cello on there) and Miranda nailed it with enough time left to record a great harmony vocal as well. I think I've dialed in a pretty foolproof method of getting great harmonies from the Broome ladies, and I do intend to work it.

Rex ~ Guitars, vocal
Miranda ~ Cello, backing vocal

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