Linda Ronstadt

When you really listen, especially to the albums, it probably should have been clear that her heart wasn’t in those songs. And even now, though I’m glad she helped to spread the word about Warren Zevon, you’ve gotta wonder what she was doing singing “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” or “Mohammed’s Radio.” But her voice was so incredible, and what she could do with the songs that she got into was so good, that you could forgive the production values (no drum shall go unmuffled!) and the lack of heart in some of the album tracks. She was HUGE in the ’70s. Hard to remember that now, even though she went on to reinvent herself a couple of times and still has a presence. She did a disastrous album of new wavey stuff that had my favorite cover of “Lies” (The Knickerbockers). Then she did the standards, 3 albums worth I believe, which was fun but who really listens to standards? They belong in movie soundtracks, they need pictures in front of them to make them interesting. I reawoke to her voice a couple of years ago on a drive to Boston, listening to “Prairie Home Companion,” and she was singing (Kate McGarrigle’s?) “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” one of her early covers now done with a tenderness and wisdom that she couldn’t have mustered in her twenties. It was lovely. And now Rhino has put out a greatest hits CD, not a thorough survey by any means, and presented in a frustratingly random order (I’d have preferred chronological), but good enough for $14. My albums are very well worn and won’t burn very nicely (I had to take 3 copies of “Back in the USA” back to the store because of a manufacturing defect, they just kept skipping and skipping), so this is a nice supplement. Not sure if remastering would reveal something that was buried in the murky laidback Southern Cal sound of the ’70s (the remastered Ramones discs are INCREDIBLE), but maybe someday somebody will try.

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