What does it sound like?:
It is self evident that Linda Ronstadt can sing anything, from the folk country of her early career through big band jazz, Mexican folk songs (in Spanish) and pop/rock by way of platinum selling trio albums with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. On the Trio album the story goes that as the recording progressed Linda consistently refused lead vocal duties, preferring to harmonise and let the others lead. She finally took the mic on Jimmie Rogers’ “Hobo’s Lament” which she knocked out of the park, town and state with ease, her soprano soaring where Emmy or Dolly just don’t go. And that’s the thing. What do you do when you can sing any genre better than almost anyone?
This album is from 1980 and is Linda in rock mode, backed by a muscular band of LA mafia types such as Dan Dugmore, Danny Kortchmar, Bob Glaub and Russ Kunkel. Recorded live in the studio, it was originally broadcast on a nascent HBO and the master tapes were lost until recently. Tragically Linda now has advanced Parkinson’s and can no longer sing so this additional product will be welcomed by the legions of fans who bought the millions of albums she sold over the course of her career. Linda is in full voice and bosses the proceedings with the confidence of one whose career has barely faltered. As a live album the sound is impeccable, probably benefitting from being live in the studio in front of an audience rather than in an enormodome somewhere with attendant recording problems. The final track is “Desperado” with Linda backed just by Bill Payne and is about as fab as it gets.
What does it all *mean*?
Linda had just released her 10th album “Mad Love” which was criticised in some quarters for being rock of a rather well groomed and polished to a shine type, despite songs by Elvis Costello and other new waveish acts/writers. Her voice on that album, and here, is in full throated edge-of-bellow mode which, whilst impressive and easily capable of being put in front of an 8 piece rock band (where, say, Emmylou or Dolly just wouldn’t survive), leaves those who loved her earlier work somewhat bereft of her gentler, more touching side. Even on “Blue Bayou” or “Willin’” you could probably have heard Linda at the back of the room without a PA to help. It’s an impressive performance, almost daring other singers to attempt something bigger, better, louder…and though only the foolish would have tried, I can’t think of any singers in the country/folk genre who would want to. A highlight for me is “Faithless love” where the band slim down to banjo, touches of electric piano, steel and minimalist drums. Here you remember why Linda Ronstadt is so awesome. She can turn a lyric and a melody into dust in your eye in a moment. The full on rock stuff is fine too but is impressive rather than connecting emotionally.
Goes well with…
Oh anything really. It’s hard to ignore though – one for the car perhaps. Criticism aside, it’s impossible not to tap your foot to Linda belting out “Back in the USA”, so perhaps not for the car.
Might suit people who like…
Anyone who likes West Coast 70/80s rock will like it. Me, I prefer her in slightly more restrained mode but don’t let that put you off, this is a fine album and one I’ll return to in the right mood.