After three albums of American pop standards, one straight-country album, and an album of Mariachi music which explored her cultural heritage, Linda Ronstadt returned in October of 1989 with an eclectic record of songs ranging from pop to rhythm and blues, allowing her to return to the interpretive style that had made her a superstar.
Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind would become one of the most commercially successful studio releases of her career, selling in excess of three million copies, staying on the American album charts for over a year, producing two hit singles, and winning her yet another Grammy Award.
Ronstadt was now in her early forties and produced a mature, basically pop album. She and long-time producer Peter Asher continued to show their knack of selecting songs which matched her powerful and sensitive vocals well. Their selection of Aaron Neville for duets on four of the tracks was brilliant as his unique voice provided a wonderful counterpoint to her own.
Jimmy Webb is sometimes an underrated songwriter but he has composed hundreds of songs which have been recorded by too many artists to count during the course of his 45 year career. Ronstadt selected four of his compositions to grace this album and they form the foundation of this very strong release. “Adios” makes the top ten list of my favorite Linda Ronstadt songs, this haunting soundtrack to the end of the California dream featuring Brian Wilson on backing vocals. “Still Within The Sound Of My Voice” leads off the album and her soaring vocal says she is back in familiar territory. “Shattered” is a beautiful, sensitive ballad while “I Keep It Hid” is just a cut below the first three.
The album spawned two big hits, both of them duets with Aaron Neville. “Don’t Know Much” received massive airplay during late '89 and reached the number two position on the American singles charts. “All My Life” reached number eleven, proving that these two voices were made for each other.
The title song is one of the more ambitious of her career. She recorded a number of Eric Kaz songs during the course of her career but this is the most sophisticated and intricate. A gospel choir, orchestration, and percussion support the tempo and tonal changes, pushing her to leave her comfort zone in a way that yields a stunning performance.
The last song, “Goodbye My Friend,” is gentle and poignant, speaking about the passing of a friend, making for a fitting conclusion to the album.
Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind was the last consistently great album of Linda Ronstadt's career to date. She has also not produced another top fifty album. When exploring Ronstadt's catalogue, though, this remains an essential and satisfying stop.