Warren Zevon was on a comeback of sorts when he set out to record "Stand In The Fire." As is well known (and documented in the infamous Rolling Stone cover story), he had his addictions to battle, and this was the first tour after having conquered them. The line-change in "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" to "I got a .38 special up on the shelf, and I don't intend to use it on myself" was part of that rejuvenation. Zevon was clean and proud and ready to rip.
"Stand In The Fire" is as pure a rock rip as Zevon ever made. Songs up to "Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School" are included here, with two new songs and a goofy Bo Diddly medley. Why in the world it remained out of print (and never even issued to CD) for over 25 years is downright criminal. Somewhere after this - and documented on "Learning To Flinch" - Zevon became more an acoustic live act. When I saw him on "The Envoy" tour, it was just him, his piano and guitar. On "Stand In The Fire," however, Zevon is almost giddy with rock and roll exuberance.
Adding to this five-star document of Zevon at his peak are the four bonus cuts. My guess is (along with time restrictions) that at least two were left off the original album due to their more mellow qualities. "Frank and Jessie James" and "Hasten Down The Wind" are solo piano performances, but "Hasten" is transcendental. The anguish in Zevon's voice is awe-inspiring. This was always a five-star album in my mind, the bonus tracks add to the luster.
But it is the original 10 song album that I had the excitement for when I heard Rhino was finally going to get them out stateside. Warren Zevon is as alive as he ever was on this LP, and when he shouts out to George Gruel to get on stage and dance, it's as inspiring a moment as has ever been recorded for a live album. (I'd add to that the final verse of "Werewolves of London," where Zevon bellows "and he's looking for James Taylor" like he's on the brink of sanity.) It is just another reason why I will miss Warren Zevon and his insight, literary wit and passion. Essential seventies music.