Writing and recording with a lung-cancer death sentence over his head, Zevon's in uncharted territory here. There are few precedents in any medium for this sort of inspired-by-impending-demise meisterwerk. His storied third-person narratives are absent; instead, we see through the eyes of one of rock's bravest voices as he looks back on life and forward to encroaching darkness. Missives to old flames, last disgusted glances at world affairs, and the most justifiable cover ever of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" are all delivered with naked sentiment and, of course, humor as black as a tumor. Guest turns from Bruce Springsteen and Emmylou Harris are predictably amazing; Joe Walsh's searing slide licks are another highlight. Though Zevon's final vocal had to be recorded on his sofa instead of in the studio, he somehow sounds more vital than ever. (Jeff Rosenberg)
9 LAZY 9
Man with a Movie Camera
There is no doubt that musical scores accompanying films help give dramatic emphasis and tone to the onscreen action. However, 9 Lazy 9's Sweet Jones proves that you don't actually need the visual to create the emotional narrative typical of orchestral film scores, à la Ennio Morricone. The album's cathartic organs, dubby bossa novas, and menacing brass sections conjure images of an abstract intergalactic Nouvelle Vague drama, shot only during the nighttime and remembered like a dream, with sparsely arranged jazz modes. Cinematic Orchestra's Man with a Movie Camera is equally epic in sensation, and was originally recorded in 1999, when the band debuted a score it wrote for the 1929 Soviet day-in-the-life documentary of the same name. It's a more toned-down affair than was presented by the group at the former B Complex last month. There, the tighter-than-the-state-budget lineup that played created more atmospheric space, and sweeping string samples placed high in the mix, with gentle drum hits underneath. This would probably be better experienced on the DVD version that includes the actual film itself, but even taken on its own strictly as a live musical performance, it's a quality piece of filmic fusion.