1974, Music

Heart Like a Wheel (1974) by Linda Ronstadt

Despite her relative commercial success, I don’t know much about Linda Ronstadt or her music, beyond “You’re No Good” and maybe the odd other hit song that I’ve heard through the ether – oh and backing vocal guest appearances on Neil Young albums and elsewhere. So I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

It’s a covers album. I know four of the ten songs well enough to know how Ronstadt’s versions compare with others. I can’t say I like her versions definitively more than the originals (or most famous versions, depending on the song), though her oldies covers are certainly fine. And that gives me reason to suspect that the others aren’t necessarily definitive covers either. I have no basis for that, really, but I suspect that mid-tempo country rock doesn’t always generate definitive versions of songs.

Ronstadt is a good performer. Her voice is good and she is clearly passionate. She’s not a good or interesting enough singer for me to love this record, though. Some of that is on her, some of that is on the song selection – which isn’t bad! – and some of it is on the backing “band” (really a ton of different musicians), which features numerous famous people, many of whom are members of the Mellow Mafia. It should come as no surprise, then, that this record lacks a certain edge or rawness, even on the tracks featuring members of the Burritos (who were, at one time, considerably more raw than the Mellow Mafia musicians they inspired).

There is nothing wrong with this record: it is a decent set of covers, performed well by a woman with a good voice and a group of professional musicians who are perhaps a bit too in love with professionalism. But it’s entirely not for me. I’d much rather listen to Gram Parsons’ life falling apart.

6/10

2 Comments on “Heart Like a Wheel (1974) by Linda Ronstadt

  1. Gram Parsons could be a thrilling performer but he was also a rich kid poser. Ronstadt did what he did, earlier, with many of the same musicians, more often and without being so wasted. Heart Like A Wheel may be a GORGEOUS polished album that took her to superstardom but her raw roots go much deeper than Parsons. Dying young certainly helped his cred. Linda thankfully survived.

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