Duets by Linda Ronstadt

June 6, 2014



Linda Ronstadt’s recent induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was bittersweet as she was unable to perform because of her being afflicted with Parkinson’s disease.

She was a superstar of the 1970s and 1980s selling tens of millions of albums and singles and charting dozens of times on the pop and country charts. She changed careers a number of times including a successful three album series with Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra and then exploring her Latin roots.

In conjunction with her entering The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, an album titled Duets has just been released. The tracks are culled from her performances with a number of musical partners down through the years. It is in many ways a niche album. It may not be the best of her material but it brings together her work with other people into one place for the first time.

“Hasten Down The Wind” (Don Henley), “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” (Emmylou Harris), “Sisters” (Bette Midler), “I Will Never Marry” (Dolly Parton), and “Moonlight In Vermont” (Frank Sinatra) are all good examples of her ability to combine her voice with others of various styles, plus they hold up surprisingly well with the passage of time.

Possibly the gem of the album is an acapella bluegrass type performance of “Pretty Bird” with Laurie Lewis.

Duets may not be the best place to start when exploring the Ronstadt legacy but it can quickly become a guilty pleasure as it presents an often over looked part of her career.

Lisbon Antigua by Nelson Riddle

December 24, 2012

Nelson Riddle, 1921-1985, had several phases to his career. Today he is best remembered for his musical relationship with Linda Ronstandt and the three popular big band albums she released during the early 1980s. He served as a producer and arranger for a number of artists, most notably Frank Sinatra. He also had a successful recording career as well, selling tens of millions of records.

He had the number one single in the United States during 1986. Riddle scored the film “Lisbon” starring Ray Miland and Maureen O’Hara and used the song “Lisbon Antigua” in the film. Released as a single it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Best Sellers In Store Chart for four weeks beginning 2/25/56 and the Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart for one week. It peaked at number two on the Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart and Top 100 Chart.

The flip side of the single was “Robin Hood,” which was an entirely different story altogether.

Long Long Time by Linda Ronstadt

March 21, 2012

Linda Ronstadt was a superstar of the 1970s and 1980s. Her first hit was during 1967 when her band, The Stone Poneys, reached the American top 20 with the catchy hit, “Different Drum.”

By the early 1970s she was on her own as a solo artist, beginning a career that would sell in the neighborhood of 100-million records.

“Long Long Time” was her first solo single release to reach the American top 40. It reached number 25 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during the late summer of 1970.

It was a smooth ballad that bridged the gap between rock and pop. Her clear vocal almost made you ache. It was a small beginning to one of the significant careers in pop music.

Alison 45 by Linda Ronstadt

September 24, 2010

Picture discs were the rage in the late seventies and early eighties. They were mainly aimed at the collector’s market. They were usually LP’s but every once in awhile one would appear as a 7 inch 45.

While they could be played on a stereo system they were mainly for show. The sound was poor as the different color vinyl prevented any clarity.

The disc pictured above is “Alison” by Linda Ronstadt. Ronstadt was at the height of her career and this particular picture disc presents her allure well.

Hummin’ To Myself by Linda Ronstadt

April 18, 2010

And so gentle readers, we come to the 23rd and last of my Linda Ronstadt reviews. If you missed any or would like to catch up, just go to the Blogcritics archives.

Hummin’ To Myself was released by the 58 year old Ronstadt during November of 2004 and is her last solo studio release to date. It was a return to the pop/jazz formula which had served her so well on a trio of albums with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra during the 1980’s. Here, however, she eschews a big band and works with a small ensemble to support her interpretations of songs from The Great American Songbook.

As with many of her late career albums, it would only find moderate commercial success. It only reached number 166 on The Billboard Magazine Top 200 Pop charts, but did debut at number two on their jazz charts.

Her voice has remained intact during the course of her long career and has had no detectable deterioration. Here it retains its power, tone, and purity as it takes a stroll through some of the great pre-rock standards.

All in all, it’s an acceptable album with a number of excellent performances interspersed between some average ones which was typical of her later career releases.

The best of the lot are primarily centered on her vocal skills. “Tell Him I Said Hello” is a smooth ballad with a beautiful vocal. “Never Will I Mary” is a jazz swing tune and the final notes are some of the best she has ever recorded. “Cry Me A River” is a cover of the old Julie London ballad which she gets just right. “Miss Otis Regrets” was an interesting song choice for her, as it is a dark ballad which spins a depressing story and is a nice counterpoint to the rest of the material.

On the other hand “Ill Be Seeing You” is an average cover and adds nothing to the original. “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” “Get Out Of Town,” “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” and the title song all fall into the average range which means nothing bad, but nothing memorable either.

Hopefully Linda Ronstadt has a few more solo albums left in her. Hummin’ To Myself is an OK listen but does not stay with you. We’ll see what the future brings.

We Ran by Linda Ronstadt

April 18, 2010

Linda Ronstadt was now in her early fifties. Her previous studio release, Dedicated To The One I Love, was an album of mostly lullabies aimed at children or infants and there parents to be more precise.

June of 1998 found her issuing We Ran. It was a return to the pop/rock formula which had proven so popular for her in the past. Songs by such artists as John Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan were all given The Linda Ronstadt pop treatment as her powerful voice was in fine form.

Unfortunately while a technically adept album and despite interesting song choices, I find it lacking in passion. At times she seems to be going through the motions with the intent to just issue an album. The first hint of trouble was the use of four different producers which is never good for cohesiveness and a unified vision. It would be one of the poorest selling albums of her career and barely reached the American album charts peaking at number 160.

We Ran does have two things in its favor. First she assembles a wonderful trio of guitarists to provide support. Bernie Leadon, Andy Fairweather-Low, and long time member of her touring band Waddy Wachtel provide expert and interesting playing. The second thing is her voice. Her rich vocal instrument makes it just about impossible for her to produce a truly bad album.

There are some very good if not great performances. The best is “Cry ‘Til My Tears Run Dry” written by the legendary team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. It is the one track where she sounds engaged. Her vocal is passionate on this tear jerker. The title song, “When We Ran,” is a John Hiatt tune and is a good example of Ronstadt’s voice making a good song sound better. “Heartbreak Kind” is a nice return to her country sound of the past. Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” is at least interesting.

On the other hand “Give Me A Reason” is a rare vocal miss for Ronstadt. She also gets the phrasing wrong on Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”

We Ran was an average effort by Linda Ronstadt. The musical landscape was changing and this album was tied to the past. There are certainly a lot of better stops in her catalogue.

Dedicated To The One I Love by Linda Ronstadt

April 18, 2010

Many artists have at least one unique idea during the course of their careers. Sometimes it works out well and at other times not so much. Dedicated To The One I Love is one of those other times for me.

Linda Ronstadt was about a month shy of fifty years old when she released this album. It was a compilation of lullabies for children. She took some classic rock ‘n’ roll songs and interpreted them for children or babies to be more exact.

I almost forgot I actually owned a copy of this album. It was released during June of 1996 when my children were in college and grandchildren were not in my immediate future. Maybe I picked it up second hand at a tag sale but it has resided in my collection for an indeterminate number of years. No doubt it appeals to someone with small children but if I’m going to listen to some Linda Ronstadt music, this is not a CD I would visit.

The choice of material is eclectic. The old classic “Dedicated To The One I Love,” the Ronettes “Baby I Love You,” plus “In My Room,” “Baby I Love You,” and “Angel Baby” are all interpreted with young children in mind. They are given gentle treatments. The purity of her vocals remains but the power is missing on many of the performances and for me at least, that is a loss.

The best track is a re-working of her own “Winter Light.” It was originally a sophisticated and complicated track. Here it is stripped down as it travels in a gentle direction and is an interesting counterpoint to the original. “Brahms’ Lullaby” is probably the type of material she should have sought out as it is perfect for the concept of the album plus Aaron Neville adds an additional relaxed feel.

The oddest inclusion is a slowed down version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” This rock classic is meant to be a high energy chant and not a children’s tune.

Dedicated To The One I Love is an oddity in the Linda Ronstadt catalogue but continued her resolve to travel in different directions and embrace many styles of music. It remains an interesting if odd stop on her musical journey. Its appeal is left for each individual to decide.