Wednesday, November 6, 2013

VINTAGE VINYL (Pt. 5) - Linda Ronstadt "Linda Ronstadt"

(Pt. 5) 
Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt 

This is the final installment 
of my five-part series in
which I revisit some of the 
long-lost vinyl LPs that I
uncovered recently in my 
garage. Ever wonder what 
Glenn and Don were doing
before the Eagles? They 
were making amazing music 
— with Linda Ronstadt.

In the '60s there was rock and roll, country and folk. By the '70s, those once distinct individual genres had morphed into an organic, rootsy sub-genre known as country rock. Today, they all still live together harmoniously in one singular and wildly popular sub-genre known as alternative country, or alt. country. But back in the days before musical desegregation, a little gal with a huge voice and a bold vision from Tucson, Arizona was at the forefront of an exciting new musical movement. And along with the likes of Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons, she blazed the trail where few had gone before.

I recall getting into a very heated dialogue a few years ago with a famous rock star for whom I worked. I asserted (quite passionately) that back in "the day," Linda Ronstadt was THE hottest chick on the planet and that she had made THE best and most authentic roots-rock records EVER. He maintained (with equal passion) that she was not, and did not. FYI, I was right then, and I'm still right.

Linda Ronstadt's early body of work was exhaustive.
Produced by early country rock guru, John Boylan, Linda Ronstadt's self-titled third solo record arrived in January 1972. Despite having scored a Top 20 hit with "Different Drum" in 1967 as the frontchick for Stone Poneys and a Top 30 hit in 1970 as a solo artist with "Long, Long Time," Ronstadt's first two albums had tanked. And although the Linda Ronstadt record didn't fair any better, it did set the stage for her looming epic success.

Featuring contributions from some of the day's best and brightest, fresh-faced, up-and-coming songwriters and studio cats, Linda Ronstadt is a treasure trove packed with new and used gems. Layers (and layers) of electric and acoustic geetar, pedal steel, banjo, fiddle and — real drums are woven into the tightly-knit fabric of (human) singing voices — culminating in a record that still sounds as vibrant as the day it was released, more than 40 years ago. And the warm, rich, snap and crackle of the stylus gliding across the vinyl grooves only adds to the music's authenticity. In fact, I refuse to buy this one on CD or from iTunes, as losing that glorious snap and crackle certainly would compromise the magic, man.

Ronstadt's vocal on the Jackson Browne classic, "Rock Me on the Water," is simply angelic. Glenn Frey's guitar work and Sneaky Pete Kleinow's pedal steel combined with Don Henley’s old school drumming makes this FM staple a true highlight.

In addition to a smorgasbord of such delicious classic country remakes as Ray Price's 1956  hit, "Crazy Arms," the Johnny and Roy Cash-penned "I Still Miss Someone" and the iconic "I Fall to Pieces" (Hank Cochran / Harlan Howard), Linda Ronstadt also offered such fabulous, factory-fresh personal favorites as Eric Kaz'  "I Won't Be Hangin' Round," Livingston Taylor's "In My Reply" and Eric Andersen's "Faithful."

Renown fiddle player Gib Guilbeau leaves his Cajun-style fingerprints all over this record. However, nowhere is his contribution more compelling than on the Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, John A. Lomax standard, "Ramblin' 'Round." And combined with Herb Pedersen's banjo and Jimmie Fadden's harmonica, this  track is a slow-burnin' treat indeed. 

Several of the tracks were recorded in concert at LA's legendary Troubadour, including a beautiful, record-stopping version of Neil Young's "Birds." Hey, what's that lump in my throat?

The record ends in the stratosphere with the fiery live remake of the 1965 Fontella Bass  chart-buster, "Rescue Me" — a version so dirty, gritty, and nasty that it buries the original. Yeah, I just said that.

Linda Ronstadt's career soon would skyrocket as she reached the heights of international superstardom. Yet even when placed next to her subsequent string of multi-platinum-selling LPs, this little-known countrified gem still shines the brightest.

-Christopher Long
(November 2013)

Check out my entire 
"Vintage Vinyl" series:

(Pt. 1): Chicago - X
(Pt. 4): Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

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  1. Delicious rockin' indeed.

  2. Love that record.

  3. Great album! Great singer! She definitely was a major contributor to the country rock scene!