His friend, admirer and mentor Jackson Browne once called Zevon's music "song noir," because some of his songs feature a razor wit, equal parts humor and pathos; Springsteen once said he was a moralist in cynic's clothing, and that's pretty darn accurate.
Preludes is no place for the beginner: A novice would do better to just pick up copies of Excitable Boy and the self-titled album, both of which are nearly perfect. But for those who already have played those releases to death, Preludes is a rather interesting, if decidedly lo-fi, catch. The early versions of previously released songs are fascinating as blueprints: "Accidentally Like a Martyr," for example, is an almost entirely different song than the one we've come to love, with only the chorus surviving intact. The songs recorded with a full band ("Werewolves of London" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" included) are looser and funkier, less studied than the released versions, while the unreleased songs are nice surprises.
A bonus disc is strictly for hard-core fans only, too. It's an extended radio interview with Zevon circa 2000, when he was doing press for Life'll Kill Ya, along with a trio of songs from that album, including his take on Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life."