|Prisoner in Disguise- Linda Ronstadt|
|Recording of Special Merit|
I first heard this record at a party at sublistening level and mood. Even on half a hearing, the talk cleared. (What's that? Turn it up.) I swear, sometimes you can tell a hit without even listening to it. People just feel a hot one. Ronstadt's new album hit the Top Ten in two weeks, long before word of mouth can do much. The singles ("Heat Wave" and "Love is a Rose") shot up in the same fashion.
It has taken Linda Ronstadt some time to come to this. I first saw her front-lining the Stone Ponies in their debut in New York eight years ago. (She looks exactly the same now, incidentally, with that frank, wide-eyed gaze.) It is a pleasure to see an artist come into her own best definition. One wonders how many influences came along to confuse the years of development, how many were thrown over, which were integrated into self.
I suspect that by the time Ronstadt and producer Peter Asher got together for this project, much of the homework had already been done, so that directions revealed themselves with fair calm. They have an unerring eye for suitable material. One way or another, nearly all the tracks get in the pocket.
Ronstadt surrounds herself with perfect-for-her players. The dazzling backup vocals are performed by band members: Kenny Edwards (bass), Andrew Gold (keyboards), and Herb Pedersen (banjo). They get a pure, almost bluegrass-pure, sound with a contemporary feel, first-rate all the way. Additional guest players and singers include Maria Muldaur, James Taylor, and Emmy Lou Harris. John David Souther joins Ronstadt on the plaintive title tune (which he also wrote).
In the ten years or so that Ronstadt has been a professional singer, hundreds of others have blazed into our hearts only to fade without a trace. The sprinters can learn a lesson from this steady lady.