Linda Ronstadt and the Big 6-0

I have long thought that Linda Ronstadt never got the credit for being the eclectic that her male counterparts, such as Neil Young or David Bowie, received. Sure, she isn’t primarily a songwriter, but she expresses her talents in so many varied ways.

After the Las Vegas incident of July 2004, I was peeved enough to go out to buy her 4-disc box set. Don’t make me angry; I spend money.

The collection is put together in a most interesting way. The first disc and the first half of the second disc generally follows her career, with album cuts from throughout, but from then current (1998), back to the beginning, skipping over the a couple phases. (It is light on what is probably my favorite album, Hasten Down the Wind.) The rest of the second disc is comprised of songs from the three albums she did with Nelson Riddle and the two discs of Mexican songs.

The third disc is a collaborative disc where she performs with everyone from Kermit the Frog to Frank Sinatra, plus of course, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Aaron Neville. It also runs from most recent back, but doesn’t include her background singing with Neil Young (Heart of Gold, et al.) or Under African Skies (Paul Simon).

Disc four is her rarities, including her contributions to Randy Newman’s Faust, a contribution to Carla Bley’s jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill, a collaboration with Philip Glass and much more. Again, latest to earliest.

I believe that in order for a box set to be successful, it must have both enough familiar stuff to reel you in, plus enough GOOD unfamiliar stuff to make it worthwhile. This set succeeds on both counts.

Last month, I heard her and Ann Savoy sang a couple songs on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. One song was a Cajun tune, the other a ballad.

Then I came across the June 29 episode of Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Mahar. (The full episode also features Teri Hatcher: memoir, Burnt Toast; Annabelle Gurwitch: book and documentary, both titled Fired!; “dog whisper” Cesar Millan.) “11-time Grammy Award winner Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy harmonize beautifully on “Walk Away, Renee” and “Too Old to Die Young.” Between numbers they spar with Bill on the American South and Las Vegas.”

I’ve added their collaboration “Adieu, False Heart” to my shopping list; the album comes out on July 25.

Linda turns 60 manana. Happy birthday, Ms. Ronstadt.
At the free Turtles concert downtown last night, I watched that “I didn’t know they did that!” look on many faces when they performed “She’d Rather Be with Me”. But you know how a song will get stuck in your head. That happened to me with the funny lyrics of Elenore. I sang the choir and the end tag all the way home. Aloud. Repeatedly. And, of course, not the melody line, but the harmony line. “You’re my pride and joy, et cetera”, indeed.

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