Linda Ronstadt - The Very Best Of - Elektra/WEA
Sept. 24, 2002 - In high school my best buddy John Scott could never understand how I - a rocker preferred Barbra Streisand over Linda Ronstadt. Our typical teenaged angst played out via rapturous arguing sessions on who was technically the better singer. For me, Streisand the quintessential seventies diva, won hands down when it came to crescendo's and unlike Ronstadt, didn't have a penchant for covering fifties doo-wop songs. Neither wrote their own tunes, with the exception of a rare co-write credit here or there, and both owned the seventies in their respective genre's and so they had that in common but comparing Streisand to Ronstadt brought apples vs. oranges to mind. Both were known as pop singers but if I may split hairs both were really coming from different angles.
Like most teenaged boys though, I always noticed Ronstadt - what sexually curious kid in the seventies didn't? Who could forget the album cover for "Hasten Down the Wind" from 1976 featuring Ronstadt on the beach wearing a drenched see through dress? "I photographed OK from one angle," she once said, "Those photographs are culled from thousands."
Ronstadt, who's now 56, is the first to downplay the sexual content of her seventies marketing but interestingly she's also first in line to rag on her own pop music, more than even I did in the seventies. "I turned away from a lot of those songs because I outgrew them" she told Rolling Stone magazine recently "And they don't speak for me anymore" She's referring to her exodus from pop that started with stints with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in 1983 and moved on to traditional Mexican songs introduced to her by her father.
Ronstadt has made a habit of reinventing herself even further with a Children's' recording in her repertoire as well as her Country Trio albums with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Let's not forget her Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta 'The Pirates of Penzance' on Broadway in 1981. In the end Ronstadt say's if she had to do it all over again she'd start as an opera singer.
I have to admit, I still think Streisand has a technically better voice but she's a one trick pony next to Ronstadt. Though Ronstadt finds most of the music on this "Very Best of" album painful "I didn't do my best singing until I was 50" she muses, still this collection confirms her deserving place in Rock'n roll history as one of the great interpreters. Yes all the sing -a- long fifty/sixties covers are here Martha and the Vandellas bouncy "Heat Wave," Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy" as well as Chuck Berry spirited "Back in The U.S.A." Her late eighties return to pop music is also visited on this set with her big duet hits featuring Aaron Neville (Don't Know Why and All My Life) and James Ingram (Somewhere Out There).
As talented as Linda Ronstadt is, it's important to note that most of her side crew were world class musicians including Andrew Gold who's soaring guitar is featured on Phil Everly's "When Will I Be Loved." He also played drums on "You're no Good." Peter Asher her former manager/producer easily took her career to the next level as he did with James Taylor. Plus Ronstadt knew how to pick great tunes from friends like Neil Young, the McGarrigle sisters, Karla Bonoff, Jackson Brown, Warren Zevon and the list is never ending.
Spanning from 1967 to 1993 this collection falls a little short with only one CD still it covers most of the important moments in a history that Ronstadt herself may want to forget but the rest of us are happy to revisit. - by John Beaudin